Journey May End For Rodriguez

Infielder selected by Pirates in Rule 5 draft





PITTSBURGH—It takes some players longer than others, and the Pirates hope that Josh Rodriguez can demonstrate right away that his long journey through the minors was worth it.

The Pirates made Rodriguez the first pick in the major league Rule 5 draft in December, taking him from the Indians in hopes that he can provide middle-infield depth in 2011.

"I'm excited about the chance," Rodriguez said. "My main goal coming into 2010 was to show people I wasn't fading away, that I can still play this game."

Rodriguez batted .297/.378./.484 with 13 home runs between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus and was key to the Clippers winning the International League title.

The Pirates were picking from what was widely considered a depleted Rule 5 class. But Rodriguez was not among the Indians' top prospects, he had spent two-plus seasons in Akron, and his his fielding percentage in 300 professional games at shortstop is just .947.

"We like him as a guy to compete to make our club as a middle-utility player with upside to potentially become an everyday player," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He's a solid defensive shortstop, can swing the bat a little bit, bounce around, play second or third, probably even run him out to the outfield."
Huntington was asked if Rodriguez can play shortstop in the majors. "Our guys feel like he can be a shortstop, maybe not an everyday shortstop," he said.

Rodriguez explained his breakthrough season—he missed three months of 2009 to a strained right hamstring—in the simplest terms.

"I'd been doing all kinds of worrying, and I just stopped," Rodriguez said. "I stopped worrying about my mechanics, and I got comfortable in the box. I stopped worrying about making every single play at short, and the defense got easier, too. I feel like I have the capability stay at short. I really do."

TREASURE TROVE

• The Pirates received righthander Cesar Valdez from Arizona as the player to be named in the Zach Duke trade. Valdez, 25, went 1-2, 9.65 in nine appearances for the Diamondbacks. With Triple-A Reno, he went 6-10, 5.90.

• The Pirates lost a player in the Rule 5, too, as Kansas City claimed righthander Nate Adcock with the fifth pick. The front office had been worried it could lose Adcock, 22, after he went 11-7, 3.38 for high Class A Bradenton.