Wandy Rodriguez returns to the mound

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The Pirates have the best record in baseball.

And their rotation could soon get a big boost.

According to beat writer Michael Sanserino of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez threw off a mound Wednesday for the first time in a month and reported no issues with his forearm or elbow. He’s scheduled to throw another bullpen session this Saturday and then it might be time to progress to a live batting practice session.

Rodriguez, who has been out since June 5 with left elbow and forearm tightness, could be ready to rejoin the Pittsburgh starting rotation at some point in late August or early September if he avoids further setbacks. He began a rehab assignment on June 24 but had to halt it after experiencing renewed mid-arm discomfort.

Wandy had a superb 3.59 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 46/12 K/BB ratio in 62 2/3 innings before landing on the disabled list. The Pirates (68-44) enter play Wednesday night against the visiting Marlins with a two-game lead over the 66-46 Cardinals in the National League Central standings.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.