Rodriguez has new outlook back in Pittsburgh

Following car crash and trade, utility man gets opportunity in familiar place

Rodriguez has new outlook back in Pittsburgh

It's been a whirlwind year for Pirates utility man Sean Rodriguez -- one filled with shock, near-tragedy, surprise and redemption.

Rodriguez is back with the Pirates, whom he enjoyed a breakout season with in 2016, less than a year after signing a two-year contract with the Braves and seven months removed from the most terrifying day of his life.

It's taken fortitude, both physical and mental, to come back from injuries sustained in a car accident Jan. 28. Rodriguez's wife, Giselle, and two young sons were also hurt in the crash near the Rodriguezes' offseason home in Miami.

"That's a day that will never go away," Rodriguez told Steve Phillips and Tyler Kepner on MLB Network Radio. "January 28. I will never forget that day. 1:30. I remember the time, to a tee. It's been a process. Day to day. Something you constantly have to remind yourself, 'I'm going to get one inch, one percent better every day,' and see where I'm at the end of it all."

It took more than five months of rehab for Rodriguez to return to the field, which he did on July 17 for Atlanta. Two weeks later, he was traded in a surprise move back to the Pirates.

Must C: Rodriguez walks off

In his first game back with Pittsburgh, on Sunday, Rodriguez received a nice ovation from fans while running out to the field. Then he received a massive one after blasting a walk-off home run in his first at-bat back with his old team.

"It was a great feeling. My wife and my kids were excited, because we'd built relationships here," Rodriguez said about returning to Pittsburgh. "We were definitely excited to get back and reunite with them."

But when it comes to the story of the Rodriguez family, there is so much more to consider. Giselle, who suffered several broken bones in her leg, wrist and ribs in the crash, is still undergoing physical therapy. Rodriguez's two young sons, Sean "Gogo" Jr. and Zekiel, were hurt as well. Rodriguez needed surgery to repair a rotator cuff tear, labrum damage and a dislocated bicep tendon.

The driver of the other car involved in the incident died in the crash.

"There was a lot of pain," Rodriguez said. "You have to push through ... and trust the people around you know what they're telling you."

Rodriguez on return to Pirates

Healthy again and back in his adopted city, Rodriguez can begin looking forward to helping the Pirates in the National League Central race.

"To come back as quick as I did is something I can only thank God for every day," he said.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.