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Perrotto: Pirates Might Be Developing Their Own Mr. Smile



Endy Rodriguez, Pittsburgh Pirates

It is becoming more difficult to find charismatic major-leaguers – or professional athletes in general – with each passing year.

Many players are hesitant to show their personality at a time when social media dominates. They fear doing anything out of the norm could cast them in a potentially unfavorable light and turn into something viral on the internet.

Pittsburgh Pirates rookie catcher Endy Rodriguez is a refreshing contrast to today’s big leaguers.

The 23-year-old Rodriguez has become a popular figure in the clubhouse just 26 games into his major-league career. His outgoing and charming manner will likely make him a big fan favorite, particularly if he lives up to the lofty expectations that come from winning back-to-back league MVP awards in the minor leagues.

It’s kind of hard not to like a guy who, in his first day in the big leagues, motioned to the writers who cover the Pirates regularly to “come on over, boys,” as he stood at his locker in the clubhouse.

“He is very happy, he is very engaging, and I think that’s where the infectious personality comes out,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “And then most importantly, and this has nothing to do with since he’s been in the big leagues, he’s not scared. He came to big-league (spring training) camp and was the same guy. When you have that, you know how genuine it is.”

Rodriguez is indeed a confident young player. That is part of being considered the Pirates’ top prospect coming into the season after dominating the Low-A Florida State League in 2021 and the High-A South Atlantic League in 2022.

That confidence gives Rodriguez a certain amount of swagger, yet it does not cross the line into arrogance.

“I feel like he’s that type of guy that’s always around you, trying to get you comfortable and try to make you feel confident about anything,” Pirates rookie infielder Liover Peguero said.

Rodriguez is already developing into a leader despite his limited experience.

“There’s a lot of youthful energy that leads into leadership,” Shelton said. “I think he’s got that infectiousness about him where people want to be around him, he wants to have some energy. I think it’s really cool to see out of a young kid, especially a young kid that catches.”

The best catchers are usually the ones who develop a strong rapport with the pitching staff. It is part of the game that Rodriguez takes very seriously.

“I’ve been working on that since the minors to build those relationships,” Rodriguez said. “As a catcher, you have to be a leader. That’s what they ask for. Being a leader, getting the group together, and I’ve been working on that really hard.”

It also helps that Rodriguez has a good command of the English language, enabling him to communicate effectively with each pitcher.

“It’s very important,” Shelton said of Rodriguez being fluent in two languages. “I think especially now with the diversity that we have on our staff, it’s an important factor. Endy’s done a good job continuing to learn guys and being able to be conversant with them.”

Ultimately, how successful Rodriguez winds up being in the big leagues will be dependent on how he performs on the field. He is hitting .227/.301/.400 with two home runs in 26 games while throwing out five of 12 runners – 42% — attempting to steal.

“He’s gonna be a really good player,” Shelton said. “His catching has gotten better. His at-bats continue to get better. But you can just tell the little things he does that are really gonna make him a really good player.”

Personality-wise, Rodriguez reminds me a lot of New York Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor, whose nickname is “Mr. Smile.” Rodriguez’s potential is certainly enough to put a smile on people’s faces.

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