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White Sox need Juan Pierre to be the repair man

Juan Pierre is batting an unimpressive .248 leadoff spot.| Getty Images

Juan Pierre is batting an unimpressive .248 in the leadoff spot.| Getty Images

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Updated: May 6, 2012 4:17PM

OAKLAND, Calif. — The White Sox are going to need better defense in left field and better production at the top of the batting order if they plan to climb their way into contention in the American League Central.

This is where Juan Pierre comes in, carrying both pieces in that care package. The veteran left fielder fits the profile of a bona fide leadoff man — he’s the leader among active players with 533 stolen bases and 180 bunt hits, plus a decent .347 on-base percentage. And while having one of the weaker outfield throwing arms in baseball, Pierre made one error in each of the last two seasons and covered a lot of ground with his speed.

But as the 15-23 Sox close in on the quarter pole of their ‘‘all-in’’ season, Pierre has been out of sorts. He has five
errors in left. And he has been caught stealing eight times with only six successful
attempts after he led the
majors with 68 steals on 86 attempts last season.

Pierre’s problems on defense — which quieted some after he was a target of boos at U.S. Cellular Field on the opening homestand — hadn’t surfaced much lately until he failed to catch
Torii Hunter’s drive to the left-field wall in the first inning of the Sox’ 6-4 win against the Los Angeles Angels in 10 innings Wednesday night. It scored a triple and cost Jake Peavy — who made a mistake on the pitch -- a run in the first inning of his comeback start. Pierre also appeared to get a late jump on Maicer Izturis’ flare that dropped in front of him for a single in the first inning.

‘‘Just missed balls,’’ Pierre said before the game Wednesday. ‘‘It happens. You play this game long enough, and stuff happens that you’ve never done before.’’

His solution?

‘‘Just move on,’’ said Pierre, a standup character guy in the clubhouse and one of the hardest workers on the team. ‘‘I don’t sit and think about it or whatever. I just go out there, work hard and move on. I don’t reflect on it at all.’’

A .297 career hitter, Pierre is batting .248 this season. At the top of an order built to score, he knows he’s coming up short.

‘‘My job is to get on base. I haven’t done it consistently,’’ he said. ‘‘I know when I get on base and run the bases like I know how, the offense runs more smoothly.’’

What happens when Pierre gets on is another pressing matter. He has been thrown out eight times in his last 10 stolen-base attempts. Pierre guessed wrong twice on a left-hander’s first move, got pitched-out on a couple of times and hasn’t gotten big enough leads, manager Ozzie Guillen said.

‘‘Everything gets magnified at the beginning of the year,’’ Pierre said. ‘‘But I haven’t tweaked anything, I’m just trying to be more consistent on my movements and stuff like that. And I need to get on base more.’’

NOTE: After leaving the game Wednesday with a strained right oblique, third baseman Mark
Teahen was thankful for the day off Thursday.

‘‘I don’t need to spend any time on the DL, but I don’t know,’’ Teahen said. ‘‘As of right now, it feels like a minor strain, and hopefully it
responds well to treatment and some medicine.’’

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