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Wandy looks healthy on mound, in batter's box

Wandy looks healthy on mound, in batter's box

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Six weeks ago, Wandy Rodriguez tentatively threw a bullpen in Pirate City. Just to be on the safe side, he did not climb the hill again until three days later -- as if everyone was afraid his left forearm would fall off.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez concluded an encouraging Spring Training in which he threw harder, broke off curves sharper, went deeper every time out and convincingly demonstrated the health of the forearm. A winter's rest quelled the arthritis that had shelved him for the final four months of last season.

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And, incidentally, Rodriguez truly went deeper Tuesday -- helping ignite a 29-hit attack with a two-run homer in the second.

On the mound, the lefty went 4 2/3 innings in the Bucs' 22-5 win over Toronto, and it would've been at least a little longer had he not walked the last three men he faced, with two outs in the fifth.

"Those pitches were close. They were quality pitches," Rodriguez said, more with amusement than anything else. "I don't know why he [home-plate umpire A.J. Johnson] didn't call them."

Still, Rodriguez's longest start brought his final Grapefruit League line to 11 2/3 innings, in which he allowed four earned runs and struck out nine. The feel-good, however, was immeasurable.

"The only thing I can say is I've been able to put the ball where I wanted," Rodriguez said. "I'm very happy. When I started throwing this spring, I think a lot about my arm. Now I just go and throw and feel good."

It is making Clint Hurdle feel good. Like everyone else, the manager had to enter camp with a wait-and-see attitude.

"There are still things to polish up. He's still got a ways to go," said Hurdle, comparing the Rodriguez he saw Tuesday to the one he regularly saw prior to his June 5 injury. "He's not where he can get, but it's good to see him healthy, good to see him taking the ball."

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.

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