A.J. Pierzynski strikes out in what could be last at-bat as White Sox player
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com September 30, 2012 9:00PM
A.J. Pierzynski returns to the dugout after striking out in the ninth inning of the Chicago White Sox 6-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Sunday September 30, 2012 at US Cellular Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: November 3, 2012 7:27PM
When the White Sox beat the Tigers two weeks ago to build a three-game lead atop the American League Central, A.J. Pierzynski had to figure his last game at U.S. Cellular Field in a Sox uniform would be in the postseason.
Instead, Pierzynski’s anticlimactic home finale — barring a miracle finish in the last three games this week or the improbable event that the Sox re-sign him to extend his time on the South Side — unfolded in a mostly lifeless 6-2 loss Sunday to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Pierzynski came to bat in the ninth to a warm ovation, with many of the 26,831 who hadn’t left early aware of his circumstances and standing up. A contender for the Silver Slugger Award as the best offensive catcher in the AL, Pierzynski struck out in the stadium shadows against Rays shutdown closer Fernando Rodney, finishing an 0-for-3 day. He was hit by a pitch by David Price (20-5), which figured in the Sox’ only scoring output.
Pierzynski, 35, likely will command a tidy price on the free-agent market for a catcher his age and, as much as he’d like to return, isn’t looking to give the Sox a hometown discount after he signed for $8 million over the last two years.
The Sox figure to be fiscally prudent and stick with the retooling plan that almost got them in the playoffs despite letting Mark Buehrle walk and trading Carlos Quentin, so Pierzynski knows he might have three games left in a Sox uniform.
“It’s definitely a real possibility,’’ Pierzynski said after the tumbling Sox’ 10th loss in 12 games clinched a first-place tie for the Tigers.
Pierzynski’s wife and kids flew in from Florida knowing this could be it, and he joked about having to wear “these stupid red uniforms” the Sox wear on Sundays as a tribute to the 1972 Sox. It was a typical “A.J. being A.J.” wisecrack.
“I wish I could boycott it and make us wear our normal ones or bring back the sleeveless ones we had in [the World Series year] ’05,’’ he said.
On a more serious note, Pierzynski reiterated his desire to come back.
“Like I said earlier in the season, I packed my house up once, I packed it up for a second time,’’ he said of previous close calls when he almost parted ways with the Sox. “It’s becoming old hat now. I would love to come back and finish my career here, but at the same time, I know how baseball works. Maybe we can work something out. If not, I’ll always look back fondly on my time here and appreciate it. I love the city of Chicago. I love the fans here. I love the people here. I love the organization, and you’ll never hear me say anything bad about them.’’
If Pierzynski leaves, his final weeks always will be associated with a Sox nosedive that wouldn’t stop on Sunday. They had the usual recipe for a loss — a poor start by the pitcher (Jose Quintana) and no offense (five hits).
“It’s part of the game, and it sucks,’’ said Kevin Youkilis, who singled, scored a run and struck out three times.
“It’s a team effort, there’s no one person to blame — pitching, hitting and defense collectively. We didn’t play as well as we could have. An unfortunate situation.’’
“On a scale of one to 10, it’s obviously a 12,’’ said Adam Dunn, who was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
“This game’s not easy, first off. But when you put added pressure on yourself to do more than you have to, you saw the result.’’