Rodriguez activated, makes Braves debut

Rodriguez activated, makes Braves debut

ATLANTA -- Less than six months after being involved in a car accident in which a man was killed, and five months after undergoing what was initially projected to be season-ending left shoulder surgery, Sean Rodriguez was the Braves' third baseman during Monday night's 4-3 loss to the Cubs at SunTrust Park.

"It's exciting, I'm like a little kid on his birthday," Rodriguez said before the game. "That's what you want to do growing up, play in the big leagues. I've been doing it a while. I feel like this is just a refresher of how fortunate I am to play and to be able to do it again this year, I'm excited."

It appeared Rodriguez might add to the excitement surrounding this significant night when he came to the plate with two on, two outs and the Braves trailing by one run in the ninth. He struck out in his first two plate appearances, grounded out in his third and then drew a walk to load the bases in the ninth. The game ended when Johan Camargo followed with a flyout to left field.

"That was a huge walk," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I was thinking this couldn't be set up any better for him to come onto the scene and walk them off. It was a really a great at-bat by Sean."

After being activated from the disabled list just before this series opener against the defending World Series champs, Rodriguez said his faith provided him constant strength as he steadfastly spent the past few months doing whatever necessary to defy the projections that were set when he underwent surgery on Feb. 15 to repair a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder.

The Braves didn't rule out Rodriguez returning at some point this year, but the assumption was that he would not play again until 2018.

"I guess every once in a while, you do doubt the power of God, but I guess this is a reminder not to doubt it," Rodriguez said. "He definitely helped me get to where I'm at now. It's going to be five months. That's pretty miraculous, and I'm just grateful."

Rodriguez has certainly had plenty of reason to give thanks since agreeing to a two-year, $11.5 million contract that the Braves announced on Thanksgiving. His preparation to serve as a versatile member of Atlanta's regular lineup was halted on Jan. 28, when the Suburban he was in with his wife and two of their sons was struck by a stolen police cruiser in Miami, Fla.

The man who stole the car was killed. Rodriguez's wife, Giselle, suffered multiple fractures, and two of the couple's sons were briefly hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Rodriguez initially thought he escaped with scrapes and bruises. But a week before the start of Spring Training, he learned he needed to undergo left shoulder surgery.

Rodriguez moved his family to Atlanta in early April to create the opportunity to remain with them as he dedicated himself to his daily rehab requirements with the Braves' medical staff. He has been at SunTrust Park every day the Braves have played a home game this year.

"Just watching the guys out there playing and seeing everybody go through the daily grind helped push me," Rodriguez said. "Having my family here made it a lot easier, too, because that is what we play for, to provide for them."

Rodriguez recorded just three hits in 39 at-bats during his Minor League rehab stint with four Braves affiliates. But because he was healthy, the Braves opted to activate the 32-year-old veteran, who hit .270 with 18 home runs and a .859 OPS in 342 plate appearances with the Pirates last year.

"Hats off to him for the hard work and the dedication, and to the training staff for the hard work and dedication they showed to get this guy back," Snitker said. "I heard from the doctors throughout the whole [rehab process] how impressed they were with how fast he was improving."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.