Joely Rodriguez came out of the bullpen in Altoona tonight after starting pitcher Orlando Castro went five innings. Altoona is just coming off their All-Star break, so I wanted to confirm that the move wasn’t due to the time off. According to Pirates’ farm director Larry Broadway, Rodriguez will be coming out of the bullpen “for the time being.”
Rodriguez has a 4.44 ERA in 99.1 innings this year with Altoona, along with a 4.9 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9 ratio. He’s been hit around a lot, and isn’t looking like the top lefty prospect who combined for a 2.70 ERA in two levels of A-ball last year.
The move reminds me of what happened with Justin Wilson a few years ago in Indianapolis. Wilson started the year with a 4.14 ERA in 113 innings, with a6.6 K/9 and a 4.6 BB/9 ratio. Wilson remained in the bullpen the rest of the season to work on getting back on track. He returned to the rotation the following year, and pitched as a starter until the Pirates needed him as a reliever in the majors later in the year.
I’d expect Rodriguez to return to the rotation at some point. He’s a lefty who can hit 94-95 MPH with his fastball on a consistent basis, working in the low-90s. He’s got a slider and a changeup, both of which can be average pitches or better. An optimistic view has him as a number three starter. A more conservative upside has him as a back of the rotation starter or a strong lefty reliever, similar to Wilson. Considering the pitching prospects that the Pirates have in the upper levels, Rodriguez might be limited to a relief role if he remains in the organization.