Less than five months after major shoulder surgery that many assumed would sideline him for the entire season, Sean Rodriguez is doing infield drills and hitting off a tee, and Braves manager Brian Snitker thinks the versatile veteran might be ready to play as soon as August.
“He’s worked really hard,” Snitker said. “I don’t know still the timetable. Theoretically, yeah (he could play this season). I mean, if he’s doing that now, I think in a couple of months or so, why not? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. I haven’t even asked because it’s so far away.”
Then Snitker and cracked, “I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express.”
But seriously, Snitker and the Braves have been highly impressed by all they’ve seen from Rodriguez, who was injured along with his wife and two of their four children in a terrifying Jan. 28 collision. The SUV he was driving was struck by a stolen police car as the Rodriguez family was on its way to a youth ballgame at a park near their Miami home.
The drive of the stolen police cruiser was killed and the car burst into flames.
Rodriguez’s son Zekiel, 2, was briefly hospitalized with internal bruising in the hip and groin area, and 7-year-old Sean Jr. was in the hospital longer for what Rodriguez described as “a few lacerations on the head, a slight fracture of the orbital (bone) underneath the left eye and a fractured right arm. Their sons didn’t require surgery, but Rodriguez’s wife, Giselle, had two broken bones in one leg, broken ribs and a wrist injury that required surgery.
Rodriguez, 32, had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder three weeks after the accident – initial X-rays after the accident had shown no breaks — to repair a severely torn rotator cuff, damaged labrum and biceps tendon that had to be relocated.
“My goal is to get back as quick as possible, because I still intend on contributing to getting to a World Series and intend on contributing to win a World Series,” Rodriguez said when he visited Braves spring training a few days after surgery. “That’s always been the goal and it’s never going to stop being the goal.”
He moved his family to Atlanta before the season and has worked diligently with Braves physical therapists every day. At every home game, he suits up with the team and does his workouts — initially on his own because they involved physical therapy and strengthening, but now with teammates since he’s added baseball activities to the regimen.
“It’s encouraging to see him, and I’m sure he’s having fun doing baseball stuff now, too,” Snitker said. “Taking the grounders, swinging the bat in the cage. There’s still protocol he’s got to go through and the body healing, but he’s feeling good and, good Lord, he’s always here. He’s been here when I get here every day. I remember coming in on an off day before the year and he was in there in his shorts, working out.”
The Braves signed Rodriguez to a two-year, $11.5 million contract in November and planned for him to start the season as their primary second baseman, then move to a super-utility when prospect Ozzie Albies reached the big leagues. Rodriguez has experience at every position except catcher and is considered a solid defender throughout the infield.
The nine-year veteran had his best season with Pittsburgh in 2016, playing seven different positions and setting career highs in average (.270), home runs (18), RBIs (56), OBP (.349), slugging percentage (.510) and games played (140).
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