Struggling Sean Rodriguez in Pirates lineup for 3rd consecutive game
Sean Rodriguez was in the Pirates' lineup for the third consecutive game Sunday and played at least seven innings for a fourth contest in a row.
And that was by design.
The struggling veteran super-utility player went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts, and he grounded into a double play to complete the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks 0 for 10 with six strikeouts, a walk and two errors. His started in left field Friday, second base Saturday and shortstop Sunday.
"Sean is the consummate professional, and Sean cares about helping this team win as much as anybody in this clubhouse," general manager Neal Huntington said. "And we still see the tools and the traits to be able to do that.
"Sean has worked hard in the tunnel. And I get no one wants to hear he's working hard in the batting tunnel … but he's really been showing signs. The challenge becomes, how do you let that period of adjustment play into a game again? And that's where this sequence of three games has allowed Sean to get a cluster of at-bats."
Manager Clint Hurdle mentioned starting second baseman Josh Harrison hadn't missed a game since June 9, and starting shortstop Jordy Mercer played in every game since June 6. With Adam Frazier back in Triple-A, the Pirates have no other middle infielders on their 25-man roster.
On Friday, Rodriguez played instead of Gregory Polanco.
"Trying to get (Rodriguez) some reps," Hurdle said.
"But it's been challenging for him, and I'm sure he tells you the same thing. On both sides of the ball at times."
No player in the majors with as many plate appearances as Rodriguez (137) this season has a lower batting average (.145). Since May 31, Rodriguez is 1 for 26 (.038) with 13 strikeouts and five errors in 13 games played. The Pirates are 2-11 in those games.
And now he just committed his 5th error over his past 24 chances (since May 31).Sean-Rod has 5 *hits* over his past 40 at bats (since May 17). https://t.co/cHjMzHYGhh— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) June 23, 2018
A serious car accident in January 2017 put his career in jeopardy and delayed his Atlanta Braves debut until July. He was traded back to the Pirates in August.
Over the past two seasons and heading into Sunday, Rodriguez had a .159 average, .276 on-base percentage and .289 slugging percentage in 287 plate appearances. He's become a frequent target of fans on social media and in the local talk-show scene.
"We understand, and Sean understands," Huntington said. "Sean wants to help this team win a game, and we are working hard to getting back to being as valuable to us on the field as he is to us off the field."
Hurdle acknowledged he considered pinch-hitting for Rodriguez in the eighth inning Sunday but did not because he wanted to give Mercer a full day off.
"We're looking for a breakthrough (from Rodriguez). He's looking for a breakthrough," Hurdle said. "The game's been hard for us the past month. It's been hard for him for a while now. He's dealt with a lot of adversity and challenges in his life. I think that's one thing that's in his favor as far as dealing with adversity. But this is hard."
Huntington reiterated he thinks Rodriguez perhaps returned too soon from the car accident last season.
"The challenge is, as far as I know he's not feeling pain (in 2018)," Huntington said. "He's not being hindered (in) what he needs to do. What he was able to do for years, he's not able to do that right now and have success…. But he is working through some approach changes, some swing changes, and now we are going to find out if those are going to play."
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.