Endy Rodríguez, Quinn Priester debut in Pirates' loss to Guardians

PITTSBURGH -- Endy Rodríguez knew something was up.

The 23-year-old catcher, the third-ranked prospect in the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system, was held out of Sunday's game at Triple-A Indianapolis. Only after an 11-4 win over Omaha did manager Miguel Pérez reveal Rodríguez was heading to the major leagues.

"Sunday, I got off and said, 'Nah, they got something for me,'" Rodríguez recalled Monday.

Rodríguez was recalled from Indianapolis and inserted into the Pirates' lineup hitting seventh and at catcher for his big league debut in a series opener against Cleveland. Quinn Priester, a 22-year-old right-hander, started in his major league debut as the Pirates lost 11-0.

Priester, born Sept. 15, 2000, and Rodríguez, born May 26, 2000, became Major League Baseball's first starting battery born in 2000 or later, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. It marked the first debuting starting battery for the Pirates since Cookie Cuccurullo pitched to Hank Camelli on Oct. 3, 1943.

Rodríguez was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

"It felt good. Felt great," Rodríguez said. "Tomorrow's another day, right? ... I wasn't nervous. I saw the ball well."

Priester, the fourth-ranked prospect in the Pirates system, allowed seven runs, seven hits and two walks in 5⅓ innings.

"It's a debut. It only happens once, for both of us," Priester said. "Maybe not the way you wanted it to go, but nonetheless a really exciting day in both of our lives. We have to take as much good as we can from today and learn from the bad."

Rodríguez hit .268 with six home runs and 38 RBIs in 67 games with Indianapolis this season and played in the All-Star Futures Game. He was acquired from the New York Mets on Jan. 19, 2021, in a three-team trade that also involved San Diego.

A youth movement, spearheaded by fellow catching prospect Henry Davis' promotion from Indianapolis on June 19, has emerged in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are 41-53, a season-high 12 games below .500 after a 20-8 start.

"The future is here, man. I know we're going to do something special with this team," Rodríguez said. "At some point, we're going to do the best job. I know we have a lot of younger players here and I think we have the talent. We're going to do something special. "

Davis, 23 and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 amateur draft, has primarily played right field since his promotion. He is hitting .271 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 24 games.

"I'm going to catch here. It's my position," Rodríguez said. "But if they think I'm going to play other places, I don't care. I just want to play. I'm just having fun and want to help the team."

Infielder Nick Gonzales, 24, was recalled from Indianapolis just five days after Davis. Jared Triolo, a 25-year-old infielder, made his debut June 28.

"Honestly, we thought we were going to see all these guys at some point," Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. "To say that we thought we were going to see them all together, I don't think we would've thought that."

Priester, drafted 18th overall by the Pirates in 2019, used nine pitches (seven strikes) to get through a perfect first inning following a 47-minute rain delay. He retired his first nine batters before walking Steven Kwan and giving up Amed Rosario's two-run homer.

"I think we were able to see [Priester's] stuff," Cleveland's Andrés Giménez. "Obviously, he was attacking us in the strike zone with the fastball early on. We saw what his pitches were doing. The second time through, we were able to execute."

"Just kind of getting the feel," Priester said. "Feeling that confidence, feeling the game situation and learning. Ultimately I might have failed a little bit tonight, but those failures are going to push me to get better."

Liover Peguero, a 22-year-old infielder, was promoted with Rodríguez. Peguero played one game last year, going 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in a 7-5 loss to San Francisco on June 18.

"I feel like besides all of us being different ages and all of that, I feel like we have the same mindset and I feel like that's going to be a big thing for us," Peguero said.

Catcher Jason Delay, right-handed pitcher Cody Bolton and outfielder Josh Palacios were optioned to Indianapolis, and outfielder Travis Swaggerty was designated for assignment.

Peguero said Rodríguez nearly cried when discussing their promotion. Rodríguez wasn't shy to admit he did cry, three times.

"I'm not a big crier. I can't talk with anybody in that moment," Rodríguez said. "I can't express my emotions. I was thinking a lot in my mind. The cry comes, and I said, 'I hate you. Stop that. You are not like that.'"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.