PITTSBURGH — Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script yesterday. Newly acquired Sean Rodriguez returned to Pittsburgh after spending 2017 in the Atlanta Braves organization, lifting the Pirates with a walk-off moonshot in the 12th inning, which was rightfully deemed “storybook” by starter Jameson Taillon. Nevertheless, Rodriguez’s clubhouse presence, not offensive production, may be just enough to push the Bucs atop the NL Central.
It’s safe to say the veteran fan-favorite grew fond of Pittsburgh.
Just a few hours following a trade sending him back to the Pirates, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Pirates beat writer Rob Biertempfel announced a phone conversation with Rodriguez in which the 32-year-old was already on a plane back to PNC Park– despite having 72-hour window for him to report.
The affection shown by Rodriguez works both ways, as players and coaches alike were ecstatic when he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
Pirates centerpiece Andrew McCutchen showed his appreciation, running over to Rodriguez as soon as he stepped foot in the clubhouse right before the clock struck noon.
“It’s like when you have a best friend during a school year and they leave to their summer home, and then they come back from their summer home,” described the Pirates center fielder.
This is where the utilityman’s value truly comes into play.
Not one man within the Pirates organization will question Rodriguez’s drive, determination or desire to win games.
So there’s hope his return can help jolt the team and light a much-needed spark under a team who could use one right about now. Pittsburgh sits only 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs.
And let’s not forget about the beef, constantly brought up among fans, Rodriguez still holds against the Cubbies. Not a single Pirates follower forgot about his fists hammering a Gatorade cooler in a Rocky Balboa-like fashion during the 2015 National League Wild Card game.
Expect this type of energy when the Pirates continue battling on their quest for the team’s first division title since 1992.
Given his ability to play nearly every position on the field, Clint Hurdle can mix and match lineups and have an easier time sitting guys in need of a day off. With all due respect, not many have the same confidence in Max Moroff holding that role.
“Deep down, I never felt like I stopped being a Pirate,” Rodriguez said. “A big saying over here is ‘family forever.’ I was over here for two years. I felt like that [feeling] was never going to leave. Now I’m back.”
Joe Cinello covers Pirates material for Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Connect with him on Facebook (Joey Cinello), Linkedin (Joseph Cinello) and Twitter (@JCinello).