Luis Rodriguez a veteran bat in Salt Lake Bees' lineup
Luis Rodriguez's swing looks so natural now, honed for 16 years.
Twice in Saturday's game, the 32-year-old second baseman nailed shots to right field: One for a stand-up double, then a third-inning grand slam his second of the year that would eventually prove to be the difference for the Salt Lake Bees in a 7-4 victory over the Colorado Sky Sox.
Even when he hit a flyout in the fifth, Rodriguez's left-handed swing was strong, and he connected solidly. At this point in his career, that's one of the few things he's looking for.
"I'm really happy the way I've started the season," Rodriguez said through an interpreter, teammate Roberto Lopez. "I'm happy I'm healthy, because that's been a problem in the past. I'm lucky I had a great start to the season, and I'm just kind of maintaining."
"Maintaining" might be a little modest Rodriguez has been one of the most consistent players this year. Although he's the only infielder on the roster older than 27, he's a sure-handed glove at second, and his bat has been a solid part of a lineup that's seen many changes. He leads the team in RBIs, and he's the hardest player in the PCL to strike out: He's done it only once every 14.4 plate appearances.
As a left-hander, he batted .293 in his first 50 games. All of his home runs have come as a left-handed hitter.
But he only started learning how to switch-hit as a 16-year-old, when he first came to the United States from his native Venezuela. Early on in his pro career, a shoulder injury forced him to commit to batting against his natural style.
"I think my second year was a little tougher than anything," he said. "I had shoulder surgery, and I had to take a lot of swings left-handed; I couldn't really take any right-handed. It was tough to adjust, but it came around."
So far, being a switch-hitter has worked for Rodriguez, who will turn 33 this month. He saw action in the better part of six major league seasons as an infielder, where versatility was his main strength.
Grabbing Rodriguez from Tacoma this offseason has proved to be a fortuitous move by the Bees. He's not leading the team, but he's consistent. He doesn't strike out, and every now and then, he's good for some power hitting.
Saturday showed why, even as one of the elder statesman of the Bees, Rodriguez still has a place in pro baseball. And it wasn't a surprise, because he's been doing it all season.
"A lot went right in that inning, and you don't always get rewarded for it," interim manager Bill Richardson said. "It's nice to see a guy who has been swinging the bat well for us this year get that."
Storylines Bees 7, Sky Sox 4
R Luis Rodriguez hits his second grand slam of the year.
• Starter A.J. Schugel allows only two runs in his second win of the year.