Rodriguez tries to look ahead
At PiratesFest, Rodriguez pointed to the 2016 dilution of the “one team, one goal” mindset that worked so well in 2015 and, as for the rest of the front office aside from Huntington — “I know there’s a business side to it. I don’t know who’s at the forefront of it. Um, I kind of do. And I’m not taking shots at Neal, that’s for sure, because it’s not necessarily him.”
Wednesday, he echoed Francisco Cervelli’s thoughts, acknowledging the loss of two stalwarts while believing in the need to look ahead.
“You can’t replace Andrew,” Rodriguez said. “Andrew McCutchen’s not the kind of player or person that’s replaceable. Cole, obviously, is not too far from that.
“I like to take the mirror effect. Basically, you keep moving forward, you keep looking forward, but you definitely need the past to reflect on and to build on. Just take it as if there’s always a mirror sitting in front of you where you can look back and reflect on that without looking back.” It would behoove Rodriguez to reflect on his past with the Pirates. He spent 2015 and 2016 with the team, playing 139 and 140 games. A strong September in 2016 led him to finish with a .270/.349/.510 line, with 18 home runs and a career-best 127 OPS-plus (a metric which adjusts on-base plus slugging percentage for league and park effects, with 100 the league average). He left for Atlanta in 2017, having earned a shot at more playing time and a two-year, $11.5 million contract. After a stolen police cruiser collided with his car in Miami in January 2017, Rodriguez required surgery to repair a torn left rotator cuff, a dislocated biceps tendon and labrum damage. The injuries kept him out until July.
He played 15 games for the Braves before they traded him back to the Pirates, and he played 39 games for them, posting only a .572 combined OPS as his shoulder regained strength. Rodriguez said the shoulder was stronger than before the accident, thanks to his rehabilitation.
“He’s healthy,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “His swing is already different than what we saw the swing of last year, based on health.”
Rodriguez can play every position but pitcher and catcher, so he likely will move around this season. The corner outfield spots and third base might provide him some playing time.
“I don’t ever sit there and say, if I play 100 games this year, I’m happy,” he said.
He mentioned preparing for playing “180-plus,” meaning the postseason run to the World Series. That already difficult path got harder with the subtraction of McCutchen and Cole, and the personnel in the clubhouse is different from when Rodriguez previously spent full seasons with the Pirates.
“The ones I do know look like they’re hungry,” he said. “I’m just hoping they’re starving. That’s what it’s going to take.”