Sox Drawer: A.J.'s L.A. Story

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Sox Drawer: A.J.'s L.A. Story

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010
Posted 8:34 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

ORLANDO, Fla -- For all practical purposes, A.J. Pierzynski should be a Los Angeles Dodger right now.

He told his mom he was going to be a Dodger. He told his wife and kids. They were all planning on a new life on the West Coast.

A.J. in LA. It had a nice ring to it.

But just as Pierzynski was officially going to exchange his White Sox black for Dodger blue, came a much different ring buzzing from his cell phone last Thursday.

It was White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn.

There was a last minute offer coming from the South Side. Actually, to say the Sox had a minute left would be an understatement.

"I was literally a half-second away from being gone," Pierzynski says in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Right when my agent was picking up the phone to basically call the Dodgers to tell them yes, the White Sox called back, so it ended up working out."

For everyone but the Dodgers.

"I think (the Dodgers) felt they had it done, because I thought they had it done. I think everybody (did). My agent, my wife, me, and it was kind of bittersweet because I was excited about going to LA, a new team, a new start, and then at the same time, I was kind of disappointed with the way it played out with the White Sox."

The issue wasn't that the Sox didn't want A.J. back, but at the time, their main focus was trying to find a way to sign both Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. Kenny Williams felt (and hoped) he'd be able to wait until the two sluggers fates were resolved before turning to Pierzynski.

There was only so much money to go around, and they weren't sure how much they'd have left for Pierzynski.

"They kept saying, they couldn't talk right now, and I was like 'I'm going to leave,'" Pierzynski recalls. "I said okay, but they still didn't do anything. Then at the last second they called and did it."

Was it divine intervention? Jerry Reinsdorf intervention?

Maybe a little of both.

Pierzynski had a frank chat with the White Sox chairman. "He gave me his honest opinion," Pierzynski says.

Which for A.J. meant that if he wanted to return to the White Sox, he would have to take a large pay cut.

Pierzynski's free agent walk year in 2010 did not go as planned, especially at the start when he finished the month of April batting .169 with no home runs and four RBIs.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me," Pierzynski says. "It obviously affected me. It affects everybody in different ways. We had brief talks about doing an extension in spring training, and it kind of fell through, and I handled it the wrong way. Instead of looking at it as a positive and going after it, I got angry and didn't do it. It made me miserable, and it affected the way I played on the field. Finally, once I had a realization that it doesn't matter anymore, just go out and play, that's when things turned around."

Pierzynski batted .333 in August and September to finish the season hitting .270. A respectable number, but not the kind he wanted heading into free agency. After making 6.75 million in 2010, Pierzynski's new deal averages out to 4 million a year in 2011 and 2012.

He said all along that he didn't need to break the bank. He just wanted a fair deal.

Going to LA? For many Sox fans, that would have felt like a raw deal.

A Dodger career? "As close as you can humanly come," he says.

But now, Pierzynski is coming back to his second home. Chicago.

Where he belongs.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."