A.J. Pierzynski helps White Sox edge Blue Jays 3-2
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Sun-Times Media August 14, 2012 11:04PM
Alex Rios; Addison Reed
Updated: September 16, 2012 6:28AM
TORONTO — Don’t try telling White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski he’s having a career season because it’s a contract year.
‘‘I promise you, the only difference in this contract year and the last one is I’ve handled it a lot better,’’ Pierzynski said.
Pierzynski put pressure on himself and struggled in 2010, and his status with the Sox became a distraction. Learning from it and figuring some things out with his swing have led to the best season of his career.
‘‘Last time, I tried too hard,’’ Pierzynski said before singling to start a three-run rally in the fifth inning of the Sox’ 3-2 victory Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. ‘‘This year, I backed off and let it happen. Whatever year I was going to have, I was going to have. As you get older, you learn things about yourself and what’s going on. There’s no sense in trying to force it. Let things happen naturally.’’
Pierzynski, who might be playing his last season with the Sox, leads all major-league catchers with a career-high 23 home runs. He’s on pace for 33 homers, 95 RBI and a .558 slugging percentage, all career highs at age 35. And if the Sox reach the postseason, he’ll get his share of MVP votes if he keeps it up.
‘‘It has nothing to do with me being in a contract year,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘It just happened to fall in that year. It’s taken awhile, but it has finally clicked. Now I have something to hold on to the rest of my career.’’
With the Sox trailing 2-0 in the fifth, Pierzynski led off with an opposite-field single to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. That hit temporarily put his average at
.300, 15 points higher than his career mark.
‘‘I haven’t changed a whole lot,’’ Pierzynski said. ‘‘I kind of put my bat on my shoulder now to get a looser, easier feel. Before, I would get set too early. As you stand there longer, you get tighter. So when I put the bat on my shoulder, I stay more relaxed and go off the pitcher instead of being caught in between.’’
Rookie left-hander Jose Quintana (5-2) allowed two runs in 62/3 innings, and Alejandro De Aza scored the go-ahead run from third on an errant pickoff attempt at first by Jays starter Henderson Alvarez (7-10). Addison Reed got the last four outs for his 21st save to tie Salome Barojas’ record for a Sox rookie.
Before De Aza scored, the Sox got singles from Pierzynski, Dayan Viciedo, De Aza (RBI) and Dewayne Wise (RBI).
‘‘I was just happy we pieced it together without actually hitting a home run,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. ‘‘This was a big win.’’
Pierzynski is asked a lot about how he has pieced together his productive season.
‘‘Am I surprised? No,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve always had power. I’ve always hit home runs in batting practice but just couldn’t translate it to a game because things would get in the way, whether it was emotional or mental, trying too hard to do this or that.
‘‘This year, I’m trying to back off, not get frustrated and not do too much and just let nature take over.’’
Pierzynski’s free-agent saga probably will take over a lot of newsprint during the offseason. He’s happy to let that run its course.
‘‘My agent and I haven’t really talked about it,’’ he said. ‘‘Just get through this year, [then] make the best decision for me and my family.
‘‘Everyone knows where I stand, so we’ll see what happens. I’d love to be back, but . . . I’m not going to be forced back. You need something fair, and you don’t know what’s out there. So we’ll see.’’