Why Rowdy will fit right in with pesky Pirates

December 20th, 2023

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's Brewers had taken care of business against the Pirates in the first half of 2023, going 5-1 with just a one-run loss. So when they were looking to put away National League Central and claim their second division title in three years, they didn’t figure the Bucs would stand in their way.

But the pesky Pirates, who flustered many a postseason-hopeful division foe in September, erased deficits in two games of their series vs. Milwaukee that month to win their final matchup of the season.

“We felt like we were the better team, but we could never close out the series and it was just a battle to the end,” said Tellez, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Pirates. “I’m excited to be on the Pittsburgh end now, the team that battles and pisses people off.”

As many Pirates said at the end of last season, Tellez believes this team is just “one or two pieces away” from moving from a pestering team to postseason bound. With the acquisition of Martín Pérez on Monday night -- which is pending a physical and has not been confirmed by the club -- and the deal for Marco Gonzales, could those one or two pieces already be among them?

Tellez hopes to be one. He played like it in 2022, when he crushed 35 homers and 23 doubles along with 89 RBIs. He’s consistently at the top of the Statcast leaderboard for max exit velocity, but last season, injuries kept Tellez from gaining any consistency to repeat his strong performance.

On July 5, Tellez was placed on the 10-day injured list with right forearm inflammation. Later that month, he had a freak incident in which he tore off the finger bed of his left ring finger and sustained a fracture in the area while shagging batting practice baseballs at Great American Ball Park during conditioning work. Tellez went from 12 homers in the first half of the 2023 season to just one in the second half.

“I just had a really good start to the season,” Tellez said, “and I think that once that happened -- and then trying to deal with the injuries and not saying anything and just being that guy that goes out every day whether it's right or wrong -- just kind of rolling through it really affected me. But once we got to the offseason, it was a huge focus on getting healthy.”

Tellez was non-tendered by the Brewers after that tough campaign, but now he enters a new situation with a chance to do something he hasn’t in a little while: Start fresh, be himself and have no expectations.

“I think that allowed me to have good times in Milwaukee, and I'm looking to do that here, too,” Tellez said. “Just didn't end the way I wanted to, but I'm happy with where I'm at. I'm excited. This is where I want to be, and I'm super thrilled to be a Pirate.”