If the Pittsburgh Pirates were cautiously optimistic regarding the potential return of starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to their rotation this season, that sentiment surely changed Thursday.
After throwing his second simulated game in a week, Rodriguez complained of persistent forearm pain, the same ailment that put him on the disabled list months ago. As a result, the Pirates announced he will be visiting noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews next week.
Forearm pain can be indicative of structural damage to the elbow; Rodriguez’ symptoms are consistent with pitchers who have undergone replacement of the ulnar collateral ligament, a.k.a. Tommy John surgery.
Earlier this summer, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington revealed Rodriguez received an injection of platelet-rich plasma to try to induce quicker healing. That unproven measure, along with a careful rehab schedule, hasn’t been enough to get the veteran lefty back to where he needs to be.
A consultation with Dr. Andrews isn’t always an automatic route to surgery, but it doesn’t project well as far as Rodriguez’ return to the mound is concerned, at least in 2013.
Rodriguez, 34, has a $13-million player option he can choose to activate to remain with the Pirates next year. The Houston Astros, whom Pittsburgh acquired Rodriguez from last summer, would pay $5.5 million of that.
With today’s news, it’s assumed Rodriguez would elect to stay in Pittsburgh, both to collect his salary and to prove his health to future employers. Of course that’s assuming he gets back on the field in 2014, as Tommy John rehab typically takes up to 16 months.
Rodriguez would be a welcome re-addition to the Pirates’ rotation, especially with rookie starter Gerrit Cole on a reduced-innings plan through the end of the season. That seems unlikely now.