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Pirates sticking with Rodriguez through slump

MLB.com @adamdberry

PITTSBURGH -- Sean Rodriguez has tried just about everything. He's choked up on the bat, shortened his swing, swung harder, swung softer, cut back on his leg kick, lessened his hand movement and so on. He's felt good at times during his pregame work with hitting coaches Jeff Branson and Jeff Livesey, but it hasn't translated to the field this season.

"I'm making adjustments, whether it's day to day, at-bat to at-bat, pitch to pitch. I'm trying," Rodriguez told MLB.com on Saturday night. "It's every day. Maybe I'm taking too many swings in the cage, I don't know. It's every day I'm working with Branno and Liv, just trying to find something that's going to be more consistent. I can't seem to find it."

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PITTSBURGH -- Sean Rodriguez has tried just about everything. He's choked up on the bat, shortened his swing, swung harder, swung softer, cut back on his leg kick, lessened his hand movement and so on. He's felt good at times during his pregame work with hitting coaches Jeff Branson and Jeff Livesey, but it hasn't translated to the field this season.

"I'm making adjustments, whether it's day to day, at-bat to at-bat, pitch to pitch. I'm trying," Rodriguez told MLB.com on Saturday night. "It's every day. Maybe I'm taking too many swings in the cage, I don't know. It's every day I'm working with Branno and Liv, just trying to find something that's going to be more consistent. I can't seem to find it."

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But the Pirates are sticking with Rodriguez, the veteran super-utility man who made his third straight start on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. Rodriguez went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a ground-ball double play in the Pirates' 3-0 loss to the D-backs. He is now batting .145 with a .544 OPS and 46 strikeouts in 137 plate appearances. With Jordy Mercer in need of a day off, Rodriguez started at shortstop against D-backs right-hander Clay Buchholz.

"We're looking for a breakthrough. He's looking for a breakthrough," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The game's been hard for us the past month. It's been hard for him for a while now. He's dealt with a lot of adversity and challenges in his life. I think that's one thing that's in his favor, as far as dealing with adversity."

It may have reached a peak on Saturday at PNC Park. On a day the Pirates gave away bobbleheads in his likeness, Rodriguez was booed as he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and a throwing error.

"I wear it, definitely, heavy. Probably heavier than most guys do," Rodriguez said. "Am I proud of where I'm at? No. Heck no. You can hear it from the fans. I don't want to be doing anywhere near this bad, because I don't think there's anyone who wants to win more than me.

"I show up every day and give it everything I've got. So when things aren't going right, I feel like I'm not contributing at all."

The Pirates brought back Rodriguez last August in a trade with the Braves, banking on his versatility in the field and the career-best offensive numbers he put up two years ago. Rodriguez slashed .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers in 300 at-bats in 2016, then signed a two-year deal with the Braves that November.

It was easy to write off Rodriguez's offensive struggles last season; he returned well ahead of schedule following an offseason car accident that left him with a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder, labrum damage and a dislocated biceps tendon. But Rodriguez has not hit for average or power this year, despite a career-high walk rate, and he's committed five errors in the field.

General manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday that the Pirates gave Rodriguez three straight starts to help him turn the corner offensively. Before Friday, Rodriguez had not started a game since June 9.

"Sean is the consummate professional, and Sean cares about helping this team win as much as anybody in this clubhouse. And we still see the tools and the traits to be able to do that," Huntington said. "This is an incredible presence in our clubhouse, and we understand the batting average and the production isn't where we wanted it to be -- or really hoped it would be or thought it would be."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Sean Rodriguez