Versatile Rodriguez Ready to Prove He’s Better Than Before

Sean Rodriguez says he’s the back-up centerfielder & embraces role on the team.

Jeff Hathhorn
March 18, 2018 - 12:24 pm
Sean Rodriguez

93.7 the Fan

It’s often you hear from players in Spring Training that they are in the ‘best shape of their life’ as they come back from adversity.  This challenges Sean Rodriguez faced last year were not only career, but potentially life changing.

Rodriguez and his family were in a near-fatal car accident in Miami last January.  All survived the crash, but his wife and oldest son suffered broken bones and bruises, and Rodriguez was left with an injured shoulder.  While he did return to the field, the shoulder impacted a career-worst .167 batting average.

“You can almost see it early in camp, the aggressiveness of his swings,” said manager Clint Hurdle.  “He’s diving for balls, head first into bases.  He told me he’s in the best physical condition he may ever be in.  In March this time last year, you are talking about a whole different story.  You don’t know what is going to happen.  His perseverance shows up again and he’s put himself in a very competitive place.”

Normally players take time after a season before resuming training.  It would have been understandable if Rodriguez would have taken more given what he went through.  One week after last season, Rodriguez went back to working out. 

“You don’t try to get back to what you were, you’re trying to surpass that,” Rodriguez said.  “Every year you hear people say ‘another year, more experience and stuff like that’, but at the same time you want to feel like you can do more than the previous year.  You should always try and out do yourself, just because you are always trying to set the bar that much higher.”

The 32-year-old Miami native leads the Pirates with four Spring Training homers, saying it’s good to know he can still hit it out.  Rodriguez said his swing is where it needs to be and that’s due to great communications between himself, hitting coach Jeff Branson and Hurdle.

“They’ll sit there, pull up a chair and do whatever they got to do to listen to you and know exactly what you are trying to do with your swing,” Rodriguez said.  “So they know, so they can work with you.  They are big on that.  And you’ve got to keep that.  You’ve got to keep yourself.  And they have to learn you, so they can maintain who you are.”

“We’ve found a good relationship where we free him up and he goes and competes,” Hurdle said.  “There is going to be some swing and miss.  You don’t try and change him, get in there and get some swings, trust your eyes and get your swing off.  That’s what we continue to share with him and I think that’s the mentality he has and it works well when we are all on the same page.”

He’s played seven different positions in the majors and also been a designated hitter.  Rodriguez knows versatility and prides himself on it.  He also wants to make it easier on the team, as, for example, Hurdle said he won’t move Gregory Polanco from right field to keep him comfortable.

“I’m the back-up centerfielder, a lot of people typically laugh, but I hold true to that,” Rodriguez said having played the fewest games at center of any position in his career.  “I want to know that these guys don’t have to move.  Polanco doesn’t have to go to center if Marte needs a day off.”

“Basically making it to where guys stay comfortable, let us be the ones that are making it uncomfortable on ourselves carrying extra gloves and moving around to different positions.  You guys settle in and try and basically maximize what you can do at that spot and let us float.”

Rodriguez said he learned that from his father.  Also his coach, Johnny Rodriguez emphasized to young Sean to play were the team needs you.

“My will to win always supersedes the selfish desire to want to do things,” Rodriguez said.  “I’ll embrace it to I die probably.”