Bucs hope Wandy's Classic run carries over

Bucs hope Wandy's Classic run carries over

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Wandy Rodriguez has a reputation for getting off to hot starts as a tough April pitcher.

Apparently, he's not too shabby in March, either.

The left-hander's dynamic showing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic bodes well for Pirates' hopes for a fast start to the 2013 season, with Rodriguez set as the No. 2 starter behind A.J. Burnett.

"He definitely got himself prepared for the Classic," pitching coach Ray Searage said. "We were keeping track of him, and he got himself ready a month earlier."

Rodriguez was stellar in a six-inning start in Saturday's 2-0 win over Puerto Rico, allowing just two hits. In two Classic starts, he has allowed five hits and one run over 9 1/3 innings, with three walks and six strikeouts.

"I heard he pitched inside well with his fastball, and also threw his breaking ball well," Searage said. "Hopefully, now he's on track for us. We're ready to get him back here."

The season's opening month has been, by far, Rodriguez's strongest through the first eight years of his career. He has a lifetime ERA in April of 2.95 and last season, with the Astros, he allowed only six earned runs in 31 1/3 innings (1.95) across five starts.

"I wasn't even aware of that, but that sounds good," said shortstop Clint Barmes, reunited with Rodriguez after being his Houston teammate in 2011. "It's very important that you get off to a good start, it's definitely what we need to do, and it's not surprising at all out of Wandy. He's got very good stuff, and when he's on, he's tough to handle."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.