Tellez's huge homer turns boos to chants of 'Rowdy! Rowdy!'

June 9th, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- Rowdy Tellez was booed by the PNC Park crowd before he even took the field Saturday afternoon. The first batch came when PA announcer Guy Junker announced that he was in the lineup against the Twins, batting seventh.

Tellez has heard plenty of boos this season. Some of that is due to his performance, as he entered Saturday with a .257 slugging percentage and a dozen RBIs in 52 games. It’s hardly the output the Pirates had hoped for when they signed him as a free agent this winter.

But those boos had started to pick up way back in April, when Tellez stood in front of media to defend David Bednar after the closer was jeered by the home crowd following several early-season blown saves. Tellez showed unflinching support of his closer, but his line of “we don’t do that out here” in reference to fans booing got under some’s skin. When he didn’t produce after those comments, it was just gasoline on the fire.

The boos on Saturday got louder when Tellez grounded into a double play in the second inning. They stayed loud when he struck out to end the fourth.

Then, with one swing, things changed. Tellez, who hadn’t homered since March 31, got a hold of a Simeon Woods Richardson changeup and clubbed a home run to center field to break a scoreless tie in the seventh. Suddenly, those boos did a 180 and turned to a chant of “Rowdy! Rowdy!”

“I feel honored,” Tellez said. “It's kind of emotional to feel that. It's been a lot of downs, not so many ups for me to start this year.”

Tellez would single home two more runs in the eighth and score on a Michael A. Taylor base hit, providing nearly all the offense in a 4-0 Pirates win over the Twins.

Watching the dugout, it was clear how much that home run meant. Colin Holderman said he got extra juice warming up in the bullpen hearing those chants. Martín Pérez, the bringer of postgame Powerade showers, took his sweet time dumping the cooler on Tellez.

“I think that was the best of the year so far,” Pérez said.

“It means the world to us,” said Holderman. “He shows up every day and works his [butt] off. Seeing success like that is awesome. He’s been grinding. He’s been going through it. Seeing some success like that in a big game, in a big situation, it was awesome. It was good to see.”

In contrast to many fans, the Pirates have maintained faith in Tellez. They still see hard contact and bat speed, traits that originally drew them to him this winter, as well as a desire to break through his slump.

“He's here early every day working,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “Still feel like there's a breakout in there.”

The tide may be turning a bit in Tellez’s favor results-wise. Three of his past four games have been multihit performances with one extra-base hit. This comes after he sat for most of the homestand to try to regroup. The early returns have been encouraging, and he looks visibly more comfortable in the batter’s box.

"It's nice to smile,” Tellez said. “It's nice to feel the way my teammates feel. It's nice to be happy going out. There's a lot of things, like I said, a lot of emotions. So it's been nice to hear that. It's been really comforting.

“Like I said, hasn't been a lot of ups, so it's nice to go out there and hear my name. I'm trying to do the best I can for everybody. Trying to be that leader, that player that needs to produce. That's what they brought me here to do, and we're going to get that going and keep it going."

Saturday was unquestionably Tellez’s best home game of the year. Time will tell if it will be a bit of a turning point in his season. If it is, remember those chants.

“Even before the homer, it was like they could feel it and they got into it, which was cool, and then it just continued to go,” manager Derek Shelton said. “Just give our fans a ton of credit because players appreciate that, man. That resonates with them. They care. I think that's the big thing. Rowdy had a nice game. I'm giving our fans a check next to it because I think that was a big part of it.”