Pierzynski agrees to one-year deal for $2.25M
CHICAGO -- White Sox general manager Ken Williams had heard all about A.J. Pierzynski, and wasn't sure he wanted someone with such a bad rap in the clubhouse.
Then Williams talked to Pierzynski. What he heard convinced Williams that not only was Pierzynski's reputation as a bad boy overrated, but the slugging catcher was a good fit for Chicago.
"I'm very satisfied that what we're going to get is a guy that is focused on our pitching staff and their needs, and a guy who's going to help us with his bat," Williams said Thursday after the White Sox and Pierzynski agreed to a $2.25 million, one-year deal.
"I've spoken with some of our players, some of our staff members and as far as we're concerned, A.J.'s a member of the White Sox and all of that is in the past," Williams said. "He comes in with a clean slate."
Pierzynski freely admits he's competitive and will do anything to help his team win. But that hard-nosed approach has irritated umpires, coaches, opposing hitters -- even his own teammates at times -- and it's given him a reputation as a malcontent.
His personality wasn't a big issue when he played for the Twins, a genial group who have a camaraderie rarely seen in pro sports. But after he was traded to the San Francisco Giants last offseason, things soured quickly.
In May, Pierzynski found himself on the defensive after three pitchers anonymously criticized his work ethic and claimed he was bad-mouthing Giants' hitters to opponents while behind the plate. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came to Pierzynski's defense, saying the Giants just needed to get to know their new catcher, and tensions eventually eased.
But Pierzynski knows there still are people who don't think very highly of him.
"All I can say is I'm going to do whatever I can to change that," he said. "It's taken an effect on my career. I don't know where some of the stuff has come from, but I'll do whatever it takes to fix it.
"What happened in San Francisco is a shame," he added. "But I'm looking forward to a new start in Chicago and getting that out of the way."
And if Pierzynski hits and the pitching staff likes the way he handles games, the White Sox don't care if he's got a quirky personality.
This, after all, is a team that's made do with the likes of Albert Belle, David Wells and Jack McDowell.
"People think that I just am into what's going on with me. People don't understand I just want to win," Pierzynski said. "I'll do anything I can to help my team win the game. I can't say anything else except that I'll do my best to change and get that reputation gone so we can win games."
Pierzynski gives the White Sox the veteran catcher they wanted, as well as more left-handed power in the lineup. He's one of the better offensive catchers in the league, a career .294 hitter who has batted above .300 twice and was an All-Star in 2003.
Over the last four years, he ranks second among all catchers with 127 doubles, third with a .293 average and seventh with a .438 slugging percentage.
Pierzynski's numbers took a dip last year. Though he had a career-high 77 RBI and tied his career best with 11 homers, his .272 average was his lowest in four full seasons in the majors. His slugging (.410) and on-base (.319) percentages also were lows.
But Williams and Pierzynski both expect his numbers to rise again once he's away from Pac Bell Park, which may not be as much of a hitter's park as Barry Bonds makes it seem.
"I didn't have best year I could have had last year," Pierzynski said. "But I look forward to coming to Chicago and starting over."
Pierzynski is not eligible for free agency until after the 2006 season, so he could end up staying in Chicago for two years.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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