Braves lefty Rodriguez has first rough start of spring

BRADENTON, Fla.—After Wandy Rodriguez's previous outing, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the left-hander would be in the starting rotation to begin the season.

Nothing that happened on Thursday against the Pirates altered Gonzalez’s view.

Gonzalez pitched five innings and allowed eight hits and four runs, including a pair of home runs and three doubles, during the Braves’ 7-5 Grapefruit League victory.

“The outing today doesn’t change my mind at all,” Gonzalez said. “Especially since I thought the two home runs that were hit, were not hit really well. They just got up in the jet stream.”

Rodriguez allowed just six hits and one run in 13 total innings in four previous spring appearances. When Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison led off the first inning with a homer, it was the first run allowed by Rodriguez since March 4 against the Mets. Pirates second baseman Neil Walker added a solo home run in the fifth.

Rodriguez recorded three strikeouts without a walk.

“I feel great,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t feel nothing in my arm, so I feel good. The only thing today was my fastball was up a couple of times. I think if I put the ball where I want, I can get guys out. But today I feel the ball is a little bit high in the zone and they hit (fly balls) into the wind.”

Rodriguez can opt out of his contact just before opening day if he’s not on the big-league roster but he’s set to join a rotation that includes Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Shelby Miller. The fifth starter is to be determined.

The Braves signed Rodriguez, 36, after he failed a physical with the Phillies in December because of a previous knee injury. Various ailments, including a forearm strain, limited Rodriguez to just 18 major league starts over the past two seasons.

Rodriguez likely will get one more spring start. He said his arm feels good and the knee is not an issue.

“I feel very good,” he said. “I am ready for (opening day).”

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