Pierzynski to Texas: The end of one era, the start of another

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Pierzynski to Texas: The end of one era, the start of another

A.J. Pierzynski is off to Texas, per multiple reports, and it appears the book is closed on an eight-year run with the White Sox. When Opening Day rolls around next April, Paul Konerko will be the last remaining player from the 2005 World Series team still with the White Sox.

Pierzynski was a man without a team in the winter following the 2004 season, his lone year with San Francisco. His reputation wasn't good around baseball, despite hitting .293.335.438 in his ages 24-27 seasons. With some prodding from Hawk Harrelson, the White Sox took a chance and signed Pierzynski to a one-year, 2.25 million deal.

We kept going to Kenny, and Kenny was like 'I don't know, I've heard all these bad things, and I don't know, I've gotta talk to my people, Pierzynski told CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien this summer. Finally, I guess Hawk got a hold of him, sat down and told him he'd take care of me, so Kenny finally consented and I've been here ever since.

Pierzynski stabilized the White Sox behind the plate, starting eight consecutive Opening Days -- the third-most in franchise history, behind only Sherm Lollar and Ray Schalk. He made the All-Star Game in 2006 (as part of the organization's "Punch AJ" campaign) and logged over 1,000 innings behind the plate in all eight of his seasons with the Sox.

His best year, though, came in 2012. Pierzynski hit a career-high 27 home runs (his previous high was 18, set in 2005), while his .827 OPS was similarly a career best.

Pierzynski's departure means the Tyler Flowers era is set to begin in 2013, as the White Sox will figure out what they have in the backstop who turns 27 in late January. Over 108 major-league games, Flowers has a .205.307.388 line with 12 home runs, and his defense has earned above-average reviews.

The White Sox had interest in bringing Pierzynski back, but only at a certain limit, as CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes previously reported. The organization, too, has expressed a faith in Flowers to succeed numerous times.

"I think that Tyler, based on the history that weve had with him, will be a quality everyday catcher in the big leagues," general manager Rick Hahn said at the outset of the offseason. "Its tough for a kid, especially a young kid, to sort of have sporadic playing time as he did this past year and continue that development. So that will be one of the things we have to talk about.

"But defensively he certainly can handle the position. I think hes going to get on base and hit for power. So he can be a valuable and viable everyday catcher in the big leagues."

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

Derek Holland ends spring on strong note as White Sox down Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Holland ended a productive spring with his best outing to date on Monday afternoon.

Healthy and excited to officially kick off his White Sox career, Holland delivered six strong innings in a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday. The left-hander allowed two earned runs and five hits in six innings pitched, walking two and striking out one. Holland is expected to pitch once more in Milwaukee on Saturday before pitching in the third game of the regular season.

“Definitely feel good,” Holland said. “Feel very confident with everything, very happy with how the spring went. I worked on what we needed to work on to get myself ready for the season and stay healthy and I’m very happy with that. But most of all when you get out there and pitch, the defense, you have to keep them on their toes, and I thought the last out was the perfect example of that.”

Holland was referring to a nice diving catch by Jacob May that prevented at least one run from scoring. The longtime Texas Rangers pitcher was pleased to have established his fastball early and mixed in his offspeed pitches and changeup.

“I wanted to make sure we were going the distance,” Holland said. “I didn’t want to have a setback, and I thought we did a great job.”

The White Sox appear to have narrowly avoided one setback on Monday and are awaiting word on another. An X-ray on the left wrist of infielder Tyler Saladino was negative after he was hit by a pitch while getting in work in a pair of minor-league games. Saladino has been diagnosed with a bruised wrist.

The team is still awaiting word on pitcher Jake Petricka, who took a comebacker off his pitching hand in the seventh inning. Petricka exited the game, got his hand wrapped in ice and left to take an X-ray.

The White Sox are also waiting to learn the results of Carlos Rodon’s second opinion. Rodon was scratched from Friday’s start with a tight bicep tendon and had a physical exam and took an MRI, both of which showed he had no structural damage. Rodon traveled to Los Angeles early Monday for the second opinion with Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Even if he receives the all clear, the White Sox will remain cautious, manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s almost like you have to re-start the process a little bit,” Renteria said. “It would be foolish to try to anticipate or push him into any direction without first of all ultimately having whatever the diagnosis is or the validation or whatever it might be of the second opinion. Once we get that, we’ll know hopefully tomorrow how we can ultimately proceed. I wouldn’t think we’d try to ramp him up quickly.”

The club also expects to have more clarity on the status of right-handed pitcher Juan Minaya on Tuesday. Minaya, who has been out since March 15 with an abdominal tear, was re-evaluated on Monday. Minaya had a 3.18 ERA and nine strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring.

Matt Davidson also had two hits in the White Sox victory and drove in a run. Melky Cabrera hit a solo homer, his first of the spring. Yolmer Sanchez blasted his third homer of the spring, a two-run shot.

Zach Putnam struck out two in a scoreless inning.

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

With season a week away, Todd Frazier is 'right where I need to be'

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After he pulled the ball more than ever in 2016, Todd Frazier has worked to hit it the opposite way more often this spring. Even if he struggled.

But as the Opening Day nears, Frazier doesn’t want to cheat himself. Though he struggled last season, Frazier hit a career-high 40 homers. That kind of success means Frazier will continue to pull a pitch if it’s where he likes it. That approach led to a double and Frazier’s first home run of the spring in a 5-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. Both balls were hit to left field.

“I’ve been working on a lot of things and sometimes when you work on something the results aren’t going to be there,” Frazier said. “But I still stay true to myself. And once we start getting going here, pretty close, close as can be -- it’s time to have those things in the back of your mind. But at the same time, you have to hit it where the pitch is and put in play. I was working on a lot of things. I was still trying to go right field, couldn’t get it out there. And now you go to what you know best and just react.”

According to fangraphs.com, Frazier hit 22.8 percent of all balls he put in play to right field last year, which is actually above his career mark of 22.5 percent. But en route to slashing .225/.302/.464, Frazier saw a second consecutive dramatic drop in the number of balls he hit to center. Of the balls Frazier put in play, only 28.5 percent went up the middle, down from 37.7 percent in 2014 when he produced a career-best wRC+ of 122.

To correct that trend, Frazier has worked to give himself a better chance to hit outside pitches the opposite way. Now that his focus is back on hitting to all fields, Frazier thought it was a good sign to homer with a week left before the season starts.

“It feels good,” Frazier said. “It’s showing I’m in the right place. It was a changeup and I’ve been out in front on a lot of those. I’ve got about 10 or 12 more at-bats before the season starts and it’s go time. Get back in the rhythm of things. Whatever you worked on, keep that there. If it’s outside now I have that weapon too as well. I’m right where I need to be.”