Chicago White Sox

A.J. 'literally one call away' from leaving


A.J. 'literally one call away' from leaving

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
7:40 PM

By Jeremy Lynn

Six years ago, A.J. Pierzynski couldn't find a team after being released by the San Francisco Giants.

Now, he'll call Chicago home for at least a couple more seasons - his seventh and eighth on the South Side - after re-signing with the White Sox Friday for 8 million over two years.

"I'm ecstatic, I didn't really think it would work out," Pierzynski said. "I had called my mom and told her I was going to a different team, it was bittersweet. I'm happy a team wanted me as much as (another organization) did, but Rick Hahn called and it was an offer we were looking for."

While it's a happy day for Pierzynski and the White Sox, the veteran backstop was extremely close to adding "former" in front of his current employer.

"When I say we were close, we were literally one phone call away from being done," Pierzynski stated about the negotiation process Thursday night. "At the last second I got a call from Hahn, we were interested and it got done in about 15 minutes.

"I really, really thought it was over. It was hard for me to believe with all we'd been through in Chicago but it worked out and it feels right, which is all I can ask for as a player."

Pierzynski, who turns 34 on Dec. 30, struggled at the plate last season with his impending free agency on his mind, "I was trying to do too much - get five hits every at bat - to show everyone what I was capable of doing instead of just letting it happen."

Five hits surely wasn't happening, Pierzynski was having trouble getting even one in most game early on. He hit .247 in the first half of 2010 before getting hot in the season's final month to finish with a .270 batting average, down from .300 in 2009, with four less home runs (13 in '09 to nine in '10).

"It was my fault, but you live and you learn and I hope to grow from it," reflected Pierzynski on his early-season slump. "I tried too hard and pressed, and we got off to a bad start. You look up and you're hitting .180 in May and you start pressing. I'm going to try not to let it happen again."

Whether or not Pierzynski's hitting can rebound may not matter as much with Friday's signing of left-handed slugger Adam Dunn, a clear signal the team wants to win just as bad as he does.

"Aren't white Sox always in (win now) mode?" Pierzynski pondered. "One thing about the White Sox, they always want to win and it's a very attractive quality about this organization. They do whatever they can to win - signing free agents and making trades - whether it's Jerry (Reinsdorf), Kenny (Williams) or Ozzie (Guillen) they do everything they can to win. That's why I wanted to come back and be a part of it."

Part of that willingness to win included Williams' signing of Pierzynski before the 2005 season, a move that worked out pretty well for both sides, and could help provide another World Series championship.

"I know people say it all the time, but I had more lucrative offers out there," Pierzynski admitted. "Not to toot my own horn, but I took less money to come back, and if it helps the White Sox win and get better it'll be a great decision. I just want to win and any little thing we can do is great."

Pierzynski was specifically referring to the not-so-little act of him and Dunn deferring money to later years of their contracts to aid in the potential re-signing of Paul Konerko. While Pierzynski has no secret information about the future of his longtime teammate and "good friend," he hopes to see Konerko wearing black and white again next year.

"The one thing (the White Sox) have to do is bring Paul Konerko back. He should finish his career as a White Sox. He's done so much for the team and the community on and off the field, it would be unbelievable for me to take the field as a White Sox and not have Paul Konerko on the field with me.

"I'll do whatever I have to do to help being him back."

Whether or not the Sox's captain returns for 2011 and beyond, Pierzynski is happy with the current roster.

"We have strong guys and strong leadership at the top, it starts with Ozzie and works down," Pierzynski said. "Everyone talks about clubhouse this and clubhouse that... if we're winning, the clubhouse will be great, if we're losing it'll be bad."

For his part, Pierzynski wishes he could play "all 162 (games)," - and while knowing that's not possible - he remains happy with Guillen's willingness to run him out there as often as he can. "That's why I love playing for him.

"You all know I'm not a happy camper when I have to take days off, I'm pretty miserable."

With Pierzynski in place, a new source of power in the middle of the lineup and the potential return of Konerko, there may not be many unhappy days over the next two years for the South Sider's field general.

Tim Anderson wanted chance to lift White Sox to victory

Tim Anderson wanted chance to lift White Sox to victory

Tim Anderson has dealt with so many teachable moments this season that an enjoyable one was long overdue.

It arrived in the form of several freezing cold Gatorade showers late Wednesday night following the first walkoff hit of the White Sox shortstop’s career. Grinding through the final six weeks of a sophomore slump, Anderson shook off three hitless at-bats to single in the game-winning run and set off a raucous celebration as the White Sox topped the Minnesota Twins 4-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Anderson’s game-winner off Twins reliever Trevor Hildenberger was set up an inning earlier when rookie Yoan Moncada doubled in the tying run while batting right-handed against Taylor Rogers.

“I think it’s a big lift,” Renteria said. “We were talking about how they were trying to be able to do something with the secondary pitches. Obviously, they did both. Obviously, it’s a confidence builder, both of them getting big hits, one to tie and one to go ahead. We were sitting in there today in the last at-bat going, ‘Man, we really want this for Timmy right here.’ Big situation, see how he does and fortunately he was able to get it through the infield.”

Renteria and the coaching staff weren’t the only ones who wanted to see how Anderson would fare in the moment. The second-year player had a sense from the dugout how it all would play out after Avisail Garcia led off the inning with a single to right field. Renteria had Kevan Smith bunt Garcia into scoring position, which led to an intentional walk of Yolmer Sanchez. Sanchez’s free pass brought up Anderson, who had one hit in his last 20 at-bats, including a bases-loaded strikeout in Tuesday’s loss.

“I wanted that moment,” Anderson said.

Before the game, Anderson had a lengthy conversation in the tunnel between the clubhouse and the dugout with hitting coach Todd Steverson. Anderson said much of the discussion surrounded his season and the ways he could benefit from everything he has endured.

Anderson struggled early this season and then battled some more as he dealt with the sudden death of close friend Branden Moss, who was killed in May while trying to help an assault victim. With the help of a counselor, Anderson began to rebound in August, posting a .976 OPS in the first 16 games of the month.

He followed that with another downturn that carried into Wednesday’s game.

“We really were just figuring out who I am and kind of learning from this year,” Anderson said of his discussion with Steverson. “Talking overall about everything that has been going on this year and kind of how I’m maturing as a hitter, just to really get better.”

Anderson shook off three hitless at-bats when he stepped up in the ninth. He had struck out on three pitches in the third inning before, grounded out in the fifth and popped out on the first pitch he saw with the tying run aboard in the seventh.

But Anderson made sure none of that mattered in the ninth.

After he took a first-pitch changeup for a ball, Anderson ripped Hildenberger’s next offering, which caught too much of the plate, into the hole. Running all the way, Garcia raced home and scored when Eddie Rosario’s throw went offline. White Sox players then chased down Anderson and Jose Abreu dropped a full bucket of Gatorade on Anderson’s head with the help of Sanchez, who held him in place.

“I put the first three at-bats behind me and came up big,” Anderson said. “It was an exciting moment. I’m going to enjoy it and wear it until tomorrow.”

Ditto for Moncada, who produced only his second extra-base hit from the right side all season long. While Moncada entered the contest with an .886 OPS against right-handed pitching, he had just a .327 OPS against southpaws. But Moncada took advantage of Leury Garcia’s one-out double even after he fell behind in the count 0-2. Moncada worked the count even, fouled off a fastball and then ripped a curve from Rogers inside the third-base line to tie the game.

“I like the pressure,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “I like being in some at-bats with the game on the line, because that’s something that you can change the course of the game. I like to be that guy, and I like to be the guy to help to win games. I like to get those chances.”

WATCH: Tim Anderson records first career walk-off hit in White Sox win over Twins

WATCH: Tim Anderson records first career walk-off hit in White Sox win over Twins

Wednesday night featured another edition of #RICKYSBOYSDONTQUIT, and a rally unicorn!

Tim Anderson completed the White Sox comeback by recording his first career walk-off hit — a single — in a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.

With the White Sox trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning, Yoan Moncada tied the game with an RBI double.

In the ninth, Avisail Garcia opened the inning with a single. Kevan Smith's sac bunt moved Garcia to second and Yolmer Sanchez was intentionally walked. 

With two on and one out, Anderson hit a grounder past the shortstop and the 26-year-old All-Star got on his high horse to come around and score, securing the White Sox 49th win of the season.

The comeback actually started with the presence of a rally unicorn, when the South Siders were down 3-2 in the eighth.

Hands down, the rally unicorn beats any rally animal.

And get that girl some season tickets, White Sox.