Rodriguez arrives healthy after offseason work

Utility man missed much of '17 following car crash; Hudson skips bullpen with sprained ankle

February 14th, 2018

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Late last September, stood in front of his locker with his arms tucked at his sides, his hands in front of him and both palms facing up. He moved his hands apart, with his right forearm rotating close to 90 degrees but his left arm stopping short of that. Rodriguez was healthy enough to play, but his surgically repaired left shoulder was never at full strength last year.
Rodriguez repeated the movement Wednesday morning at Pirate City, this time twisting out each arm with full range of motion. Thirteen months removed from a dangerous car accident, Rodriguez is healthy again -- and it shows.
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"His swing is already different than what we saw last year, based on health," manager Clint Hurdle said.
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Rodriguez reported to Spring Training on Wednesday feeling "definitely 100 percent" after a year when he was anything but that. Rodriguez and his family were involved in a serious car accident in January 2017 that required surgery to repair a torn left rotator cuff and more. He was expected to miss the whole 2017 season, but he rushed back to join the Braves in July -- just in time for the Pirates to acquire him on Aug. 5.
Rodriguez immediately provided one of the highlights of a disappointing season, hitting a walk-off homer in his first game back in Pittsburgh. But overall, the 32-year-old batted just .168 with a .528 OPS and 38 strikeouts in 106 plate appearances.

The Pirates believe Rodriguez will bounce back after a normal, healthy offseason. It was a long but productive winter for Rodriguez, who went to work in the gym as soon as the Pirates' season ended.
"I went into the offseason knowing there was a lot I had to do, a lot I needed to do, to not just get back to 100 percent but take it past that -- to come back on a level I hadn't been before," Rodriguez said. "I feel like I achieved that.
"That's what you strive for every offseason, though. You never try to work toward being what you were the year before. You're always trying to be better."
Rodriguez enjoyed a career year for the Pirates in 2016 as he hit .270/.349/.510 with 18 homers in 342 plate appearances. He will serve a similar super-utility role this year, having played every position but pitcher and catcher, and could factor into the left-field mix along with , and .
Around the horn
• Reliever did not throw his scheduled bullpen session on Wednesday due to a sprained right ankle. Hudson, who wore a walking boot after Wednesday's workout, twisted his ankle while jogging.
• Hurdle has spoken with Josh Harrison, who publicly requested a trade if the Pirates don't intend on contending over the next two years. Hurdle said he "didn't tell Josh how to react," instead walking him through management's optimistic vision for the organization's future. Hurdle doesn't expect Harrison's request to be an issue when he reports to Spring Training.

"He's going to show up ready to play. There have been multiple conversations had about the men we do have on this club, how his role can play out on this club, who he can impact -- because he does bring a significant edge and energy," Hurdle said. "I don't anticipate any type of collateral damage, backlash, backdraft, whatever you want to call it. I expect to see a guy that loves to play the game and is going to go out and show people he's a good ballplayer."
• Rodriguez, and reported to Pirate City on Wednesday, joining a sizable group of early arrivals that already included Josh Bell, , , Christopher Bostick, Nava, , and .
• Hurdle reaffirmed the Pirates' intention to make Moran their primary third baseman and put Joe Musgrove in their Opening Day rotation. Both players were acquired from the Astros in the trade.