After top prospects Endy Rodríguez, Quinn Priester and Liover Peguero received their calls to the big leagues over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates started rookies at six of ten positions in Monday’s loss to the Guardians. While the game didn’t end the way they wanted it to, it also signified a paradigm shift.
Now that most of the prospects Pirates’ fans have spent the last four years dreaming of are now in the show, the team isn’t in a holding pattern anymore. The window—if general manager Ben Cherington’s rebuild pans out—starts to open now, even if the recent arrivals won’t burn a year of service time until 2024 at the earliest.
That’s not to say the winning will start immediately: they’re still 12 games below .500, 11 games out of the last wild card spot…but the core that will push the Pirates to contention, if it’s going to happen, has arrived.
Even with an 11-0 loss and a postponed start due to inclement weather, nothing could rain on Rodríguez’s spirits on the day of his major league debut.
“The future is here, man. I know we’re going to do something special with this team. At some point, we’re going to do the best job,” Rodríguez said. “I know we have a lot of younger players here and I think we have the talent. We’re going to do something special.”
While all three call-ups started the game, their respective arrivals in Pittsburgh happened in fits and starts. The news broke for Priester first, so he had time to settle in and get acquainted with his new home.
Making the Journey
“[I] had a day yesterday to watch the game and kind of see how it is, see how the operation is ran,” Priester said. “Once I heard Endy was coming up and he was catching today, it fired me up. Just because of the confidence I have in him back there, the way that we work today. Being able to have him here and do those things, that was really, really cool. Really special.”
Peguero and Rodríguez got the news on Sunday, but Rodríguez said they traveled to Pittsburgh separately. That meant he had to make the momentous journey while alone with his thoughts.
“I cried on the airplane three times,” Rodríguez said. “I couldn’t tell anyone because I didn’t know who was there, but I was thinking in my mind like, ‘Wow. Is this happening?’”
While he’s an emotional guy, Rodríguez said he isn’t one to wear his heart on his sleeve that way. At that moment, though, he couldn’t help it.
“I’m not a big crier. I can’t talk with anybody in that moment,” Rodríguez said. “I can’t express my emotions. I was thinking a lot in my mind. The cry comes, and I said, ‘I hate you. Stop that. You are not like that.’”
Peguero played it cool and covered for his teammate.
“So last night, we got a conversation because he couldn’t sleep,” Peguero said. “ On the way here, he almost cried.”
Feels Like Home
In one of the most exciting moments of their lives, Peguero said that having familiar teammates around helped him stay grounded. While a recent call-up could feel like a fish out of water, a relative boy among men in a room full of established big-leaguers, the core’s presence helped him fit in.
“It’s something that you don’t see very often. I feel like we are very lucky to have each other around,” Peguero said. “It obviously brings a lot of energy for all of us, but just being around these people, they make me feel like home.”
For Peguero, the call-up marked the fruition of a conversation he’d had with Pirates’ right-hander Carmen Mlodzinski during the 2021 season, which they spent in High-A Greensboro.
“When I was in Greensboro, I first met Mlodzinski. We had this conversation, and it was like a five minute conversation, but all he was talking about was ‘Hey, we will be together for 10 years.’ I’m like, ‘10 years? That’s a long time,’” Peguero said. “We got to be very lucky to be together for 10 years. He’s like, ‘just trust it. We’re going to be together for 10 years.’ We’ll see if he’s right or not.”
That we will.