ShareThis Page
Pirates

Kevin Gorman: Pirates can't 'put a price tag' on Sean Rodriguez's role

Kevin Gorman
| Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, 6:36 p.m.
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez  is greeted by Jordy Mercer after hitting a home run against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez is greeted by Jordy Mercer after hitting a home run against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez hits a home run against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez hits a home run against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez spends time with his little cousin, Logan Perez, 7, in the outfield at LECOM Park before a game against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez spends time with his little cousin, Logan Perez, 7, in the outfield at LECOM Park before a game against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Bradenton, Fla.
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez spends time with his little cousin, Logan Perez, 7, in the outfield at LECOM Park before a game against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez spends time with his little cousin, Logan Perez, 7, in the outfield at LECOM Park before a game against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Bradenton, Fla.
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez hits a home run against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
The Pirates' Sean Rodriguez hits a home run against the Red Sox Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — The boys absolutely adore baseball, so Sean Rodriguez invited them to spend a day with him at LECOM Park and mingle with major leaguers.

Pirates players good-naturedly teased 7-year-old Logan Perez for wearing his Boston Red Sox ballcap and jersey, in honor of his favorite player, Mookie Betts.

Rodriguez rectified the situation, giving Logan and his brother, 10-year-old Sean Santos, Pirates practice jerseys to wear while they stretched with their uncle and his teammates.

“You see very few kids that are genuinely obsessed with baseball,” Rodriguez said. “To be able to share that joy and give them that experience was awesome.

“It's a blessing beyond words. At that age, if I would have been able to do that it would've been unreal.”

Rodriguez gave them another gift, getting the start in left field and hitting a solo home run in his first at-bat against the Red Sox.

It's a role Rodriguez had hoped to play for the Pirates this season, before they traded for All-Star Corey Dickerson last week.

Instead, Rodriguez will reprise his jack-of-all-trades act. The 32-year-old has started at every position but pitcher and catcher.

“I just want to play,” Rodriguez said. “However that lines up is not up to me. I'm ready to play anywhere. As always, I want to find a way to play as much as possible.”

Whether that's as a spot starter or late-inning defensive replacement doesn't matter much to Rodriguez. He treats his teammates the same way he does his nephews, sharing his love for the game and desire to win.

Even if it comes at his own expense of being a starter.

“No doubt, it's a double-edged sword,” Rodriguez said. “I've always seen it that way, but my will to win always supersedes any selfish desires. I feel like that's what dictates or controls my direction most of the time. But it's in there. I take it for what it is and run with it.”

That makes Rodriguez worth every penny of the two-year, $11.5-million contract he signed with the Atlanta Braves last offseason, following a career year for the Pirates in 2016.

“It's hard to put a price tag on a guy like that who can play multiple positions and is good at it,” Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “You're not afraid to play him anywhere. ... The value is in him playing multiple positions and being a leader in the clubhouse.”

Not only did Rodriguez have a .270/.349/.510 slash line with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 140 games, but he played 57 at first base, 29 at second, 27 at shortstop, 17 in right, 11 at third, 10 in left and five in center.

“That's always a slippery conversation to have because I had a manager one time tell me I was too valuable to start,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don't buy that. If you're a good player, you start. Sean's a good player. The guys we have in front of him set up better. He presents a tremendous option off the bench, based on the defense and versatility.

“We want to rekindle that stroke that he had two years ago with us so he can spot up anywhere. It's not just a day off or a step down or step back for your offense or defense when he plays.”

What the Pirates see is a supremely conditioned player who doesn't take the game for granted, especially after being injured in an auto accident involving a stolen police cruiser in January 2017. Rodriguez had surgery on his left shoulder, starting the season on the 60-day disabled list and playing in only 15 games for the Braves before being traded to the Pirates on Aug. 5.

Rodriguez realizes that his versatility makes him more valued as a bench player than a starter. And it's reflected in his selfless attitude, which Mercer calls “an unbelievable trait.”

“It's always been the same for me: just push each other to be better,” Rodriguez said. “If me playing better pushes someone else to have to play better so they can stay out there, then so be it. If I elevate my game and it's elevating everyone else's game, then that's collectively going to make us better.”

That's a passion and persona Rodriguez is passing down to the next generation, starting with the nephews who tagged along with their “tio” (uncle in Spanish).

The boys tried to downplay it, but Santos couldn't contain his excitement when Rodriguez reminded him that Gregory Polanco was as cool as promised.

“He said, ‘He's not cooler than you, Tio,' ” Rodriguez said, “so it's a good feeling.”

One that left Rodriguez looking like a superstar to two kids who adore him as much as they do baseball.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me