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Rodriguez returns to Pelicans

Two months ago, Myrtle Beach Pelicans first baseman and outfielder Gerardo Rodriguez might have considered Tuesday afternoon's pregame batting and fielding drills in sweltering heat at BB&T Coastal Field a bit of a chore.

But on this day, the sweat was refreshing. He was excited just to lace up his cleats and grab a glove a few hours before the start of the Pelicans 5-4 victory over the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

Rodriguez rejoined the team Tuesday following a 50-game suspension for testing positive for an amphetamine banned by Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, according to the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.

"I'm ready to come back. It feels pretty good," said Rodriguez, who received hugs from many teammates upon his arrival. "I'm back with my second family, you know. I'm happy and they are happy to see me here, too."

Rodriguez said he believes his positive test is the result of something in a cold medication he took. Among the amphetamines banned in major league and minor league baseball are ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which is a stimulant and decongestant that is prevalent in many cold and allergy medications, including Advil Cold & Sinus, Aleve Cold & Sinus, Zyrtec and Claritin.

"I'm not sure, you know, because I was taking a couple pills for a cold and I don't know what made me test positive," he said. "I paid my price for it and I'm back to play ball."

While in his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for nearly two months, Rodriguez said he regularly worked out, took batting practice, and took ground balls and fly balls from his offseason coach. "I'm not out of my timing or anything like that," Rodriguez said. "I was practicing and I think I look pretty good. I feel pretty good."

Rodriguez got extra sessions in the batting practice cage Tuesday as Pelicans coaches tried to gauge his readiness to play for the first time since May 20.

Rodriguez did not play in Tuesday night's win, but is expected to see time either in the outfield or at first base this week, possibly this evening in the series finale against the Blue Rocks.

"We're going to give him a couple days to get his feet back on the ground, hitting off the coaches here a little bit to watch his swing for a couple days," Pelicans manager Rocket Wheeler said. "He looks like he's been working out. He's in great shape, he's in a great frame of mind. What's happened has happened. It's over. It's time to put that chapter of his life behind him, and that's what he's done."

At the time of his suspension on May 21, Rodriguez led the Pelicans with eight home runs, eight doubles and 24 RBIs, though he was batting just .239 with a Carolina League-leading 65 strikeouts in 163 at-bats.

"I was working on making more contact with the ball and not striking out as much," Rodriguez said of his work in the Dominican.

In 123 games last year between low-A Rome and Myrtle Beach, the 22-year-old hit 23 home runs and drove in 83 runs.

Rodriguez predicts Pelicans trainer Chas Miller will tire of seeing him for the remainder of the season. Rodriguez plans to receive the approval of just about everything he ingests from here on out, even things such as energy drinks.

"I've learned to ask about everything I have to take," Rodriguez said. "... I'm sure that's not going to happen again. I will be careful about everything I do. It was a mistake, and everybody makes mistakes."

Infielders Albaro "Yoel" Campusano of the Dominican Republic and Amadeo Zazueta of Mexico were also suspended with Rodriguez for testing positive for an amphetamine, and they were released from the Atlanta Braves organization Friday after the completion of their 50-game suspensions.

Rodriguez said he hasn't spoken to his two former teammates since they all left the team in late May. "I feel pretty sad for both of them," he said. "[Baseball] is their game."

Without Rodriguez's bat Tuesday, the Pelicans managed just two hits in seven innings against Wilmington starter Buddy Baumann and reliever Brendan Lafferty -a solo home run by Jordan Kreke and double by Mycal Jones that led to a run. But they scored two in the eighth on a two-run homer by Samuel Sime to tie the game at 4, and scored the game-winner on a walk-off balk by reliever Eric Basurto.

First baseman Mike Jones doubled to lead off the ninth, pinch runner Cole Miles advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kreke and scored when Basurto balked on a 1-2 pitch to Luis Sumoza. Field umpire Tyler Wilson ejected Basurto from the completed game as he argued the call as the umpire walked toward right field to exit the stadium, and Wilmington pitching coach Steve Luebber jogged to the right field wall to catch Wilson to argue the call.

A two-run homer by Shane Costa was the primary damage against Pelicans starter and Carolina League All-Star J.J. Hoover, who gave up five hits, three runs, two earned runs and a walk with five strikeouts in six innings. Ty'Relle Harris got the win in relief.

WilmingtonAB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Norris, P CF

4

1

1

0

0

0

.229

Colon SS

3

0

0

1

0

1

.217

Myers, W DH

2

1

1

0

2

0

.367

Mejia 1B

4

0

1

0

0

3

.385

Francis, N RF

4

0

1

1

0

1

.273

Perez, Sa C

4

1

1

0

0

0

.247

Costa LF

4

1

1

2

0

2

.250

Navarro 2B

4

0

0

0

0

0

.242

Frost 3B

4

0

0

0

0

0

.230

Totals33

4

6

4

2

7

M. BeachAB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Jones, My SS

4

1

1

0

0

1

.290

Harrilchak, C CF

4

0

1

0

0

0

.276

Nelson DH

4

0

0

1

0

2

.265

Jones, Mi 1B

4

0

1

0

0

1

.239

Miles 1- PR

0

1

0

0

0

0

.260

Kreke, J 2B

2

1

1

1

1

1

.316

Sumoza RF

4

0

0

0

0

2

.224

Marval C

3

1

1

0

0

1

.231

Sime 3B

3

1

1

2

0

0

.250

Ware LF

3

0

0

0

0

1

.243

Totals31

5

6

4

1

9

Wilmington

001

200

010

--

4

6

0

M. Beach

000

110

021

--

5

6

2

E --Jones, Mi (5, pickoff), Jones, My (12, fielding). LOB--Wilmington 5, Myrtle Beach 2. 2B-- Jones, My (11, Baumann), Jones, Mi (9, Basurto). HR--Costa (1, 4th inning off Hoover, 1 on, 2 out), Kreke, J (1, 5th inning off Baumann, 0 on, 0 out), Sime (3, 8th inning off Lafferty, 1 on, 0 out).

Wilmington

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Baumann

4.2

2

2

2

0

6

2.38

Lafferty

3

3

2

2

1

2

4.10

Basurto (L, 3-1)

1

1

1

1

0

1

2.42

M. Beach

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

ERA

Hoover

6

5

3

2

1

5

3.65

Palica

1

0

0

0

0

0

4.15

Harris, T (W, 1-2)

2

1

1

1

1

2

4.37

WP--Basurto, Hoover, Harris, T. Balk --Basurto. Umpires--Home, Joey Amaral; First, Garrett Wilson. T--2:37. A--4,371.

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