A.J. Pierzynski will have chance to stick it to Ron Washington
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com July 2, 2012 10:18PM
At 35, Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is having his best season, but the All-Star invite never came. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
RANGERS AT SOX
The facts: 7:10, CSN+, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
The pitchers: Roy Oswalt (2-0, 4.26) vs. Chris Sale (9-2, 2.27).
The rest of the series
Wednesday: 6:10 p.m., CSN, ESPN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Scott Feldman (2-6, 6.13) vs. Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.50).
Thursday: 1:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Matt Harrison (11-3, 3.16) vs. Jose Quintana (3-1, 2.19).
Updated: August 4, 2012 6:24AM
A.J. Pierzynski can take up his beef with Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington starting tonight, when the White Sox open a three-game series against Washington’s star-studded cast of seven Rangers All-Stars at U.S. Cellular Field.
Washington chose Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins over Pierzynski for a spot on the American League All-Star team even though Pierzynski boasts a better offensive stats package than all three catchers on the team — starter Mike Napoli of the Rangers (fan vote), Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles (player vote) and Mauer.
There was some back-and-forth after Washington’s manager decisions Sunday, with Washington trying to smooth things over and Pierzynski feeling snubbed and wounded, even though he had predicted his unpopularity would cost him a trip to the All-Star Game on July 10 in Kansas City. Washington had to choose one Twin, and Mauer (.324) was the guy.
Washington: ‘‘I feel bad for Pierzynski. The guy’s having an outstanding year. He’s been working with a very good pitching staff over there with those Chicago White Sox for many years. I consider him a winning player because he beats you any kind of way he can. He beats you mentally, he beats you physically. So I feel really bad for Pierzynski.’’
Pierzynski: ‘‘If he felt that bad, he would have put me on the team. He had an opportunity to do it and he didn’t do it. Obviously he can feel as bad as he wants, but he didn’t feel that bad.’’
Now that each man has had his say, each will want to get back to the business of doing what he does best. Washington has his team in first place in the AL West, and Pierzynski, with 14 homers, 45 RBI and a .843 OPS, is having the best season of his career at age 35.
‘‘I’ve been just trying to relax, trying to take the tension out, just trying to get the barrel on the ball,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘Not trying to force the ball to certain places, not trying to hit home runs, not trying to do anything different, just trying to have a good plan and stick with it.
‘‘This year, for some reason . . . I’ve been able to sneak in home runs. It has been fun, and hopefully it will continue.’’
Staying back on the ball has helped Pierzynski lift more balls with backspin, giving them greater flight.
‘‘Just trying to technique ’em and just get the barrel and backspin balls instead of getting a little bit anxious and getting out front,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve always hit a lot of balls with topspin. It’s gotten me a lot of hits, but it doesn’t lead to hitting for power. This year I’ve hit a lot more balls with backspin that have carried.’’
Pierzynski is four homers shy of his career high of 18 in 2005 and is 32 RBI from his career-best 77 with the San Francisco Giants in 2004. He said it doesn’t hurt that he’s been able to control his temper after making outs, although his full-throttle helmet slam in the dugout at Yankee Stadium last Thursday suggests that’s still a work in progress.
‘‘Now that I’ve gotten a little bit older, I’ve settled down a little bit,’’ he said. ‘‘I still have my moments where I get mad, but I’ve kind of learned to control it a little bit better this year.’’
As for not playing in the All-Star Game, Pierzynski is probably over it by now, although on Saturday he said he’d enjoy this one more because his children are now old enough to experience it.
‘‘It’s also nice to get home for four days and be able to relax and get away from the game for a while,’’ he said.