Rodriguez, 35, made his final start of the 2013 season on June 5, when he left the game in the first inning with tightness in his flexor tendon. He made a couple of attempts to return to the team but was shut down for the year in mid-September. Rodriguez was told to rest his arm over the winter and claims his arm has felt good anytime he does weightlifting. He also threw in the Dominican during the offseason.
During Friday's bullpen session, Rodriguez threw a variety of pitches, working in breaking balls along with change-ups and fastballs. All in all, he tossed 28 pitches. He is expected to throw off the mound again on Monday. If all goes well, Rodriguez should be set to re-join the Pirates' rotation for the beginning of the season.
Rodriguez is expected to be an important part of the Pirates if they hope to make a return to the playoffs again. The team has lost ace pitcher A.J. Burnett to free agency, meaning the remaining pitchers will need to be that much more effective. A healthy Rodriguez would place him in a rotation with Gerritt Cole, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton while Jeff Locke and Edinson Volquez battle for the fifth spot.
The Pirates acquired Rodriguez from the Astros at midseason in 2012 in exchange for outfielder Robbie Grossman and two minor league pitchers. In 25 starts with Pittsburgh, he has posted a 3.66 ERA. He has not had a yearly ERA above 3.76 since the 2007 season.