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Rodriguez happy to be healthy, back in Bucs uni

Pirates.com

After batting .270 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 140 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, while seeing action at all four infield spots and all three outfield spots, Sean Rodriguez signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent.

The decision to leave the Pirates wasn't easy for him. However, the Braves planned to make Rodriguez their starting second baseman, and the allure of one position to focus on and a two-year contract led him to Atlanta.

After batting .270 with 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 140 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, while seeing action at all four infield spots and all three outfield spots, Sean Rodriguez signed with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent.

The decision to leave the Pirates wasn't easy for him. However, the Braves planned to make Rodriguez their starting second baseman, and the allure of one position to focus on and a two-year contract led him to Atlanta.

The opportunity was too good to pass up. However, his time with the Braves didn't turn out the way he envisioned.

Rodriguez, his wife Giselle, and their sons --- Sean Jr. and Zekiel -- were involved in a car accident in Miami last Jan. 28. A man fleeing in a stolen police cruiser crashed into the Rodriguez's SUV. Giselle and Sean Jr. suffered injuries that required hospitalization, and Zekiel was also hurt. Sean walked away unharmed. Or so he thought.

Video: PIT@WSH: Rodriguez rips game-tying RBI single to left

About a week after the accident, Rodriguez had himself examined more thoroughly. It turned out that he had sustained a torn rotator cuff in his left (non-throwing) shoulder as well as labrum damage and a dislocated biceps tendon. When he underwent surgery to address those issues on Valentine's Day, it became apparent he would miss a significant portion of the 2017 campaign.

Two weeks after the accident, the Braves addressed the need they suddenly had at second base by acquiring veteran Brandon Phillips from the Cincinnati Reds.

Just like that, a seemingly wonderful opportunity for Rodriguez had vanished.

Now, 11 months after the traumatic experience that endangered his family and changed the path of his career, Rodriguez -- who was reaquired by Pittsburgh last August -- is grateful that his family is well and normalcy has returned to his life.

"Obviously, you cherish every moment you get to have with the fam, but with everything that happened, this Thanksgiving there was so much more to be thankful and grateful for," he said. "Not to mention also coming back to Pittsburgh. That's basically the cherry on the cake right there. So yeah, I definitely have a lot more to be thankful for."

Video: PIT@WSH: Rodriguez reacts quickly, tags Rendon out

With 2018 beginning, Rodriguez is happy to be going through normal workouts, rather than the arduous process of rehabbing from injuries. What's more, he's looking forward to a full, healthy and productive season, like the one he had in 2016. It's important to him to contribute significantly to the Pirates' offense, not just be a guy who can perform well on defense all over the diamond.

"That's my main focus, because I know what I bring defensively, which is versatility and consistency," Rodriguez said. "Naturally, that's what you want your overall game to be. That's probably the one area of my game [offense], over my career, that's never been very consistent. I finally figured something out in '16 and was looking to '17. I'm glad that I can look forward to '18 in a Pirates uniform, being 100 percent again."

Last summer, Atlanta activated Rodriguez from the disabled list on July 17, but he had lobbied to come back before then.

"I've never been the type to take advantage of anybody. I always want to give my team its money's worth," Rodriguez said. "Meaning, you're paying me to be out there. I can be out there. I might not be at a hundred percent like I was before, but I can contribute. I can't sit around getting paid, and not contribute. I want to play too much. I was like, 'OK, tell me what do I need to do to prove to you that I'm OK.'"

Rodriguez appeared in 15 games for the Braves and started at second base only once before the Pirates reacquired him on Aug. 5 in exchange for Minor League infielder-outfielder Connor Joe. Though Rodriguez batted just .167 in 54 combined games with Atlanta and Pittsburgh in 2017, he's only two years removed from his finest big league season.

Video: LAD@PIT: Rodriguez belts a back-to-back homer in 2nd

With the benefit of normal offseason workouts and a full Grapefruit League season, Rodriguez is confident he'll get back to hammering the baseball on a consistent basis -- wherever the Pirates need him to play.

"I went out there [in 2017], and it was, 'Let's go,'" Rodriguez said. "Did it feel the same as it did the year before? No. Is it getting back to that? Yeah, one hundred percent. But it wasn't until toward the end of the season when it started to be more comfortable. As a man, you don't ever want to admit that, but there was a lot of uncomfortableness.

"My role most of my career has been off the bench. But I always see myself as a guy who can play every day, and wants to play every day, just because of the contributions I feel like I can bring to the table. And no, it honestly doesn't matter where [I play]. That's going to play out in Spring Training. Wherever it is, I'll be good to go."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Sean Rodriguez