Braves face decision in wake of Wandy's final audition

Braves face decision in wake of Wandy's final audition

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As Wandy Rodriguez completed his final audition for Atlanta's rotation on Tuesday night, the Braves were given reason to at least debate whether they are willing to pay the $2 million the left-handed pitcher will be guaranteed if he is placed on the Opening Day roster.

Rodriguez proved to be inconsistent as he allowed three runs on eight hits while notching eight strikeouts over five innings of an 8-5 loss to the Astros. In the process, the oft-injured non-roster invitee provided a brief scare when his left shoulder briefly tightened after he reacted to a line-drive comebacker in the third inning.

"I made a couple mistakes with my location, but I feel ready, so there is no problem at all," Rodriguez said.

If simply looking at the 3.13 ERA Rodriguez compiled over 23 Grapefruit League innings, there might not seem to be any problem with him filling one of the two vacancies in Atlanta's rotation. But before making this $2 million commitment, the Braves have to account for the shakiness he displayed in his final two outings and the fact that injuries have limited him to just 18 starts over the past two seasons.

The Braves will not have much time to make this decision, as Rodriguez can opt out of his Minor League contract if he is not guaranteed a spot on the Major League roster by Friday. The same goes for veteran left-hander Eric Stults, who would also gain a $2 million salary if placed on the roster.

"We have not made any decisions," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said when asked about the rotation.

Stults, who has posted a 1.89 ERA in five Grapefruit League appearances, and top pitching prospect Mike Foltynewicz, who has shown signs he could benefit from additional time in the Minors, stand as the only two other candidates for the final two spots. There is a chance Mike Minor could return from his shoulder ailment to claim one of those spots as early as May.

Rodriguez had completed 12 consecutive scoreless innings before he surrendered eight hits, including a pair of home runs, while completing five innings against the Pirates last week. All told, in his final two outings, the 36-year-old allowed 16 hits, including three home runs, over his final 10 innings in Grapefruit League play.

The Astros jumped on Rodriguez early Tuesday, as Jose Altuve and Jonathan Villar notched consecutive doubles and Luis Valbuena added an RBI single before the game's first out was recorded. Rodriguez then struck out five of the next six batters he faced. But before ending his evening with two more strikeouts in a perfect fifth, he allowed a Jed Lowrie double and a Colby Rasmus double in the fourth.

"That's him; he doesn't shy away from contact, which is a great thing," Gonzalez said. "He left a couple pitches up to a couple good hitters. But other than that, I liked what I saw."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.