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Bucs benefiting from Rodriguez's skill at first

PITTSBURGH -- Sean Rodriguez broke into the Majors as a skilled middle infielder. With the Rays, manager Joe Maddon often called him the best defensive second baseman in the American League.

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But over the past two seasons, one with the Rays and now with the Pirates, Rodriguez has spent most of his time at first base. The 30-year-old utility man played 124 2/3 innings at first last season and has played 101 2/3 innings at first for Pittsburgh entering play Saturday.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday that Rodriguez might be the Bucs' best fourth outfielder, defensively. He's still a capable second baseman, shortstop and third baseman.

But with Pedro Alvarez making the adjustment to first base this season, the Pirates' best defensive alignment still includes Rodriguez at first.

"It's one of the reasons we acquired [Rodriguez], because of the first-base piece," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's given us the ability to glove late. When you're running the back end of your bullpen out there with six outs to get, sometimes with nine, I still want my best defensive team on the field.

The Pirates acquired Rodriguez from the Rays and signed Corey Hart this offseason, knowing one of them would factor into the mix at first base, and so far, it's been mostly Rodriguez.

He's only started four games at first base this season, but he's played there in 37 games there entering Saturday.

"Our need is a defensive first baseman. That's why it's turned in that direction so much," Hurdle said. "He's got really good hands. He has a good nose for the ball. Plus this guy, regardless of the score, the inning, the crowd -- he's in his backyard.

"This guy plays with the slowest heartbeat with a glove on his hand as anybody that I've ever had, whether you put him in the outfield or in the infield. It's been fun to watch."

Around the horn
• If Starling Marte hadn't driven in Chris Stewart in the 13th inning Friday night, the Pirates would've seen Rodriguez at a new position: catcher. Hurdle said Rodriguez is the team's emergency catcher, and starters A.J. Burnett or Charlie Morton would have been the Bucs' replacement at first base.

Rodriguez was considered the Rays' emergency catcher as well, but he's never played a professional inning behind the plate.

• The Pirates have joined the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the "PA Says No More" campaign to end domestic violence and sexual abuse. The Pirates announced the team's partnership with PCADV before Saturday's game in a PSA featuring several players, including Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Josh Harrison.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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