The sort of situation the Pirates are in with Wandy Rodriguez is always a tricky one to try and sort out from a fan’s perspective. Rodriguez got hammered in a few starts with the Pirates and looked really awful in the process, then went on the disabled list with a knee problem (and despite all of the jokes from fans and media about how his primary injury was being terrible, he did have his knee drained and he missed some time before his rehab starts). His rehab starts went about as poorly as his starts with the Pirates did. The problem, of course, is that the results from rehab starts are less than meaningless and a pitcher can certainly go out and pitch terribly in a minor league game, but still demonstrate that they’re more or less ready to return to the big leagues in a bunch of different ways (velocity, command, secondary pitches, etc.).
That means that his start today is taking place for one of two reasons. The first is simply that his knee was a problem, it’s healthy now, and he’s ready to pitch at a big league level again. The second is that he’s a veteran that’s not convinced that he’s washed up yet, that being good to your veterans (within reason) is always a good policy for an MLB team, and that the Pirates are essentially pushing him down the river on a barge full of tinder and handing a flaming arrow to Ryan Braun today with the purpose of letting him prove to himself that it’s over. I very much suspect that we’re looking at situation #2 here, but until he takes the mound there isn’t really any way to know for certain.
That being said, the timing of today’s potential Wandy Rodriguez Viking Funeral is not great for the Pirates (though, it should be noted that the alternative is Edinson Volquez, and I don’t know if sending a guy that can’t pitch out of the stretch to the mound in Miller Park is a much better solution — when he pitches against the Yankees tomorrow, at least it won’t be a division game) because taking two out of three from the Brewers at Miller Park, getting to within four games of .500, and keeping the division deficit under seven games would all be really positive achievements for the Pirates at this point in the season.
The last thing I’ll say is this: remember that in Jonathan Sanchez’s last few starts last year, the Pirates had very little patience with him. He was only allowed to face four batters (though the four batters he faced hit back-to-back homers to start the game, followed by a single and a hit by pitch) and didn’t even record an out in his last start with the Bucs on April 26th of last year (his last appearance with the Pirates came three days later in Miller Park when Wandy Rodriguez got torched by the Brewers and he failed to provide useful long relief, which, is not really a great omen). If the Pirates have Rodriguez on an exceptionally short leash today after a rough start today, I think it should be clear what’s coming.
Anyway, Yovani Gallardo pitches for the Brewers. He got off to a great start this year and caused some people to wonder if he’d managed to do something to offset the loss of velocity that sent his strikeout rate plummeting last year, but his last three starts have not been so great. This will be the third time the Pirates see him this year; hopefully they’ll be able to push a few more runs across this time than they did in the first two. I suspect they’re going to need them.
First pitch today is at 1:10.