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From Villain to Hero: Rowdy Tellez’s Rollercoaster Season

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Pittsburgh Pirates' Rowdy Tellez watches his RBI single during the third inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, June 22, 2024, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

“We don’t do that here.”

Rowdy Tellez ignited the Pirates’ fan base with that five word interjection, spoken on April 9 following a blown save from David Bednar that spurred the home crowd to start booing their beloved hometown closer as he battled early season woes.

Barely two weeks into his tenure with the Pirates, Tellez’s comment turned into a punchline. His play on the field made things worse, as the 6-foot-4, 270 pound first baseman couldn’t buy a hit—much less extra bases—for the first two months of the season, slashing .177/.239/.223 with just three doubles and one home run at a position where power is the expectation. 

The combination of Tellez’s performance at the plate and his mercilessly-panned (if well meaning) defense of a teammate made him the focal point of Pittsburgh’s well-documented offensive struggles. It didn’t help that after another frugal offseason from general manager Ben Cherington, Tellez ended up as the only new addition to the team’s offense… and an ineffective one, at that. The boos rained down early and often during his extended slump.

“I didn’t play very well the first two months. It’s [the boos] deserving, especially when you come in here as a player that they expect a lot from and you don’t live up to the expectations,” Tellez said following the Pirates’ 14-2 win over the New York Mets on July 5, an offensive explosion in which he played a major role. “It’s something that I had to show up and deal with every day, but I knew every time that I looked in the mirror that it was self-inflicted.”

Tellez Turns Things Around

Rowdy Tellez turned his season around once the calendar flipped to June, slashing .354/.400/.646 in the 25 games since. Pirates’ fans have responded in kind, chanting his name with gusto before and during each at-bat. The big first baseman slugged two home runs in front of a sellout crowd against the Mets, getting the rally started with a solo shot in the fourth. He then put an exclamation on the game with a grand slam that capped a streak of 14 unanswered runs from the Pirates.

Tellez went on to describe how the new wave of fan support has helped him. He also made sure to highlight the role his teammates played in helping him navigate those early struggles.

“It’s been emotional, it’s been special, to have that kind of impact where it changed. But I think a lot of that stemmed from playing some good ball throughout,” Tellez said. 

“I will never say that I’ve impacted a team. These guys have impacted me, helped me out and kept me level-headed and kept a smile on my face in tough times. I think when you can do that in a clubhouse and everybody holds each other accountable, it’s a really special clubhouse.”

While Rowdy Tellez may downplay his own impact on the Pirates, it was on full display for each of the 37,037 fans in attendance on Friday night.

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Steve Malik

Can he keep it up ?!

Jesse Gonder

Seven home runs and a .244 BA in mid-July is supposed to be good?

Bill

Would love to read several different person/scouting reviews on his performance, future and trade value.

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