Rodríguez undergoes elbow surgery, out for '24

December 13th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates were dealt a tough blow for the 2024 season, as they announced on Tuesday that catcher will miss the entire campaign due to UCL reconstruction surgery on his right elbow as well as a repair of his right flexor tendon.

The Pirates said in a statement that Rodríguez’s injury was sustained during a Nov. 13 at-bat in the Dominican winter league with Estrellas Orientales. He is expected to return to baseball activity in 10-12 months.

Rodríguez swung and injured himself in that game, then was replaced later. He played again on Nov. 14, but he was once again removed from action during play. On Nov. 23, Estrellas Orientales announced officially that Rodríguez would not continue playing for them at the request of the Pirates.

Rodríguez was one of two premier catching prospects to arrive in Pittsburgh in 2023 alongside Henry Davis. However, Rodríguez was more advanced on the defensive side of the ball, so once Austin Hedges was traded at the Deadline, Rodríguez took the majority of the reps at catcher while Davis played right field.

When the Pirates signed Ali Sánchez to a Major League deal on Dec. 1, it seemed to create a bit of a logjam given that the club had Rodríguez and Jason Delay on the roster. Then, on Dec. 4, things became even murkier when general manager Ben Cherington said that Davis would come into Spring Training as a catcher. But in retrospect, given what the club knew about the extent of Rodríguez’s injury, it was never going to be a four-catcher situation.

Rodríguez entered the Majors last season as a Top 100 prospect and the Pirates’ No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. His offense waned as the season went on, with him ultimately recording a .612 OPS in his first big league action, but he is only 23 years old and 57 games into his MLB career. He was in position to make adjustments and return stronger in 2024 before the unfortunate injury.

Expect Delay to be the favorite for starting catcher, given his 125 games behind the plate already with Pittsburgh, but if Davis enters camp markedly improved on the receiving side, the former No. 1 overall pick could finally be on his way to proving himself a capable big league catcher as the club had wished all along. Sánchez has not played in the Majors since 2021, so he is poised to be a depth option.