June 5, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (51) pitches in the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez remains on track for late-season return


As mentioned on the ROOT Sports broadcast, Pittsburgh Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez threw a simulated game at PNC Park a few hours before Friday night’s game. The 34-year-old southpaw hasn’t pitched since June 5, when he left his start in Atlanta with left forearm discomfort.

According to the Pirates, Rodriguez is on track to throw a bullpen session Monday in San Diego and another simulated start next weekend in San Francisco. The team hopes to get the nine-year MLB veteran on at least one rehab start before the minor-league season ends in early September.

Pirates outfielder Travis Snider told the media Friday afternoon that Rodriguez “had good life” to his pitches, as Snider was one of a handful of batters to take hacks in the simulated game. There was concern that Rodriguez had structural damage to his throwing elbow, but a regimen of rest and rehab has improved his injury to the point where he’s willing to push for a September return.

Having Rodriguez back in the starting rotation would be a clear boon to the Bucs, who will continue to monitor the innings of rookie Gerrit Cole and fellow MLB neophyte Jeff Locke as the season progresses. Cole made Friday’s start on eight days of rest, and he said after the game he wouldn’t be surprised if he got another extended break soon. The 22-year-old has thrown 140 innings this year, surpassing his 2012 total by eight; Locke has tossed 137, still 39 short of last year’s number.

At any rate, getting a reliable pitcher like Rodriguez back into the fold would provide certain value for a team in a pennant race. The Pirates (72-49) have a three game lead on St. Louis in the National League Central with 41 games to play. Cincinnati also lurks in third place, 3 1/2 games behind.

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