It was like something out of a movie. More specifically, a baseball movie. Player reacquired by former team hits game winning home run in his second plate appearance back with the club. But this wasn’t Hollywood. It was just Pittsburgh’s version of Serpico. Sean Rodriguez, who had been traded back to Pittsburgh last Saturday in exchange for minor leaguer Connor Joe, delivered a walk off solo home run for the Pirates to give them a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres Sunday afternoon. With most trades in major league baseball, the players involved have 72 hours to report to their new city. Unlike his contemporaries, Sean Rod did not wait three days to show up in the Pirates clubhouse. He was there, the next day just in time for the team’s 1:35 game and be the hero.
The fact that Rodriguez is back in Pittsburgh, nevertheless playing this season, is again something out of Hollywood. In late January, Sean, his wife Giselle and four children were injured in Miami when a stolen police car t-boned the SUV they were driving. Luckily the only one to lose their life was the idiot thinking he was in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but the Rodriguezs were still badly hurt. Two of the four children required hospitalization then later released. Giselle took the worst of it, sustaining a fractured femur, tibial plateau, broken wrist and three broken ribs. It was months before she could move around without the aid of a wheelchair or walker.
Sean unfortunately took part of the blow from the crash, injuring his rotator cuff and leading to surgery. Initially, doctors told the veteran utility man that he would miss roughly four to six months or possibly the season depending on how the rehab on his shoulder would progress. This was incredibly tough for the Atlanta Braves, who signed Rodriguez to a two year, $11.5 million deal. The Braves, who were preparing to open their new stadium in Cobb County, brought the veteran to be the everyday second baseman. Two weeks after the car accident, they acquired Brandon (Pirate Killer) Phillips from the Reds to fill the hole left by Serpico. But to the surprise of his new team, Rodriguez was ready to begin his rehab assignment by the beginning of July. It didn’t go well.
Across almost every level of the Braves minor league system, Rodriguez could only muster three hits in 39 at-bats in a two week rehab stint. To just put in perspective how bad that is, Tim Tebow has collected three hits in a game four times so far this season in Class A. That’s how weird baseball can be. Freakin’ Tebow can have as many hits in one game than a major league hitter has in close to 40 at-bats on a rehab assignment. After his 2017 Major League debut, the Braves immediately began utilizing the skills Serpico is known for (both the baseball and the Al Pacino movie version): being a jack of all trades. Atlanta used him primarily as a third basemen and briefly in left field. Hopefully Sean Rod wasn’t too rusty with third. In his two years in Pittsburgh, he saw 19 games at third base. But like his sample size in the minors, it must have been good enough for Neal Huntington.
Though he remained mostly idle at the deadline, the Pirates general manager finally made a move to bring in reinforcement to a depleted bench. To be honest, all Huntington is trying to do is recapture the magic from last season with Sean Rodriguez. This is every front office’s thought process when they re-sign or reacquire a player that has been with them previously, whether it be the season before or not. I mean, all they gave up for him was a Single A first baseman who has never hit over five home runs in any minor league campaign. Granted, Joe is a former first round pick, but like most Joe’s, pretty sure the Braves got an average one in the deal. Getting back to the important player in the deal, Rodriguez has not let Sunday just be a teaser for production that could fade away fast. So far it hasn’t faded.
In his four games since returning to the Pirates, Sean Rod has gone 4 for 13 with 2 home runs and 3 RBIs. Coincidence or not, the team is undefeated in those games and has won four of five (Rodriguez did not play in Wednesday’s night shutout loss). You can sense there is a new energy in the clubhouse with Sean Rod back. Did you see Cutch on Sunday?!? He is just happy they finally have some reinforcements that they could have used in April, May, June or July, but hey August works too. There is no way knowing how long this new energy lasts for the Pirates. It could die North of the Border along with any hopes the Pirates have of somehow stealing the division. To be a hopeful optimist, I don’t think it will run out.
Granted, the energy will last as long as the Cubs continue to tread water in first place. And I understand one utility man cannot provide all the offense to make up the obvious firepower difference on paper between Chicago and Pittsburgh, but why can’t this Pirates group be a team that does the impossible? It can’t be all Sean Rodriguez like I said above, but the Pirates offense as a whole needs to be clicking. Starling Marte getting on base, Josh Bell continuing to hit the ball out of the park and Andrew McCutchen being Andrew McCutchen are things this team needs and then some. If the Sean Rodriguez trade somehow leads to the happy ending of the Pirates winning the NL Central, this story will immediately be made into a movie, probably with Billy Gardell funding it. For all he’s went through, let’s hope Serpico can end up being a true Steel City savior.