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

Wandy Rodriguez exercises 2014 player option, will return to Pittsburgh Pirates

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The offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates promises to be an intriguing one and they made some news Friday afternoon by announcing that starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez has exercised his player option for the 2014 season, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

It was an expected move for the southpaw to exercise his $13-million option.

May 31, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez (51) delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After only pitching 62.2 innings last season thanks to an injury of his left forearm, the 35-year old wouldn’t have earned anywhere near that as a free agent.

Rodriguez was off to a good start to the 2013 season before suffering the injury and should jump right back into a spot among the top of the rotation.

Rodriguez will join Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton in the Bucs rotation, once the Pirates tender Morton a contract as he is arbitration eligible.

If Rodriguez, who posted a 3.59 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and a 42.3 percent ground-ball rate in a limited sample size this season, is equally effective next season, it will be a big boost to the Bucs starting rotation.

The biggest decision among the 2014 rotation remaining involves veteran A.J. Burnett. The right-hander is a free agent and the Pirates are expected to attempt to re-sign him if he doesn’t elect retirement instead.

If Burnett does elect to call it a career, Jeff Locke would be the favorite to earn a spot in the rotation, at least on paper.

As for Rodriguez, the left-hander remains a question mark.

You would think he could bounce back next season and be an effective starter, but at 35 and coming off an injury plagued season, you just don’t know.

However, after exercising his option, he will be given every opportunity to again prove that he is a quality major league starter.

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