ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates parted ways with Sean Rodriguez on Wednesday when they designated the veteran super-utility man for assignment to make room for returning shortstop Jordy Mercer.Pittsburgh reinstated Mercer from the 10-day disabled list before Wednesday's game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. General manager Neal Huntington traveled
ST. LOUIS -- The Pirates parted ways with Sean Rodriguez on Wednesday when they designated the veteran super-utility man for assignment to make room for returning shortstop Jordy Mercer.
Pittsburgh reinstated Mercer from the 10-day disabled list before Wednesday's game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. General manager Neal Huntington traveled to St. Louis and, along with manager Clint Hurdle, informed Rodriguez of the club's decision to remove him from the roster.
"When good people are involved in hard decisions, yeah, they aren't easy," Hurdle said. "He's given it everything he's got here. Maybe this will be an opportunity for him to catch on somewhere else at the end of August, or maybe in September, to play."
The Pirates traded for Rodriguez in December 2014 and started him at first base in the 2015 National League Wild Card Game at PNC Park. Rodriguez returned and enjoyed a career year offensively in '16. That offseason, he signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Braves and sustained serious injuries in a car crash with his family. Rodriguez rushed back from the disabled list months earlier than doctors projected, and the Pirates reacquired him last August.
"The Pirates are an amazing organization. I know everyone's going to have their own opinion, but I have mine -- and I love anything and everything about it," Rodriguez said. "The culture that I came into was something that obviously just resonated really well."
But Rodriguez could not recreate the success he had in 2016. The past two seasons, the 33-year-old has hit .167/.277/.305 with 10 home runs, 27 RBIs and 117 strikeouts in 326 plate appearances as a part-time player.
"You could blame me and nobody else. I tried to expedite that [recovery] process, but that's who I am," Rodriguez said. "I was getting paid to do a job, not to sit around and just collect money. So I tried to do that job as best I could."
The Pirates stood by Rodriguez through his struggles, stressing the value of his versatility and his impact in the clubhouse. They sent him on an extended Minor League rehab assignment earlier this summer, giving him a chance to rediscover his swing, and Rodriguez went 6-for-12 with two homers and five RBIs in his first three games back.
"I had glimpses. I would have flashes, essentially, is what it was," Rodriguez said. "They wouldn't last as long as I could make them last in the past. There's a lot of things you could say. I'm not big on excuses. … I know I'm not done. I know it's been tough, obviously, the last two years for them and for me."
The Pirates finally chose to cut ties with Rodriguez only three days before rosters expand, clearing a spot on their 40-man roster for a potential September callup. They did so to keep shortstop Kevin Newman, the club's No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and veteran infielder Adeiny Hechavarria, both of whom will get playing time behind Mercer over the next month as the Bucs evaluate their infield options for 2019.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
Mercer had been out since Aug. 14 due to a left calf strain. The 32-year-old shortstop, who will be a free agent at the end of the year, entered Wednesday hitting .262/.329/.397 with six homers and 26 doubles.
"It's good to be back healthy and get back out and play, just enjoy the game," Mercer said. "What's frustrating about it is, you're in a playoff hunt and you can't do anything to help the team win. … You can be a cheerleader all you want, but it's different than being out there to help the team win."
• Right-hander Chad Kuhl (forearm strain) threw off the slope of the mound for the first time on Wednesday. Director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said Kuhl will throw off the slope again before advancing to bullpen sessions, batting practice and simulated innings. Only after that progression will he be ready for game action.
"We may run up against the end of the calendar to build him up to [be] a full starter for this season," Tomczyk said. "That is a possibility, but I know Chad and this staff are going to continue to push forward to see what works best for him both short- and long-term."
• Right-hander Nick Burdi, the Pirates' Rule 5 Draft pick and a candidate to join the bullpen next month, has a 5.40 ERA in five innings for Triple-A Indianapolis. Burdi recently pitched on back-to-back days, usually one of the final tests for a rehabbing reliever.
• Infielder Jungho Kang, on the Triple-A disabled list following left wrist surgery, is taking "modified" swings and playing catch, Tomczyk said.
• Class A shortstop Oneil Cruz, the club's No. 4 prospect, is currently sidelined by what Tomczyk called a "minor" groin strain.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.