Sox Drawer: How Pierzynski almost became a Cub

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Sox Drawer: How Pierzynski almost became a Cub

When you see A.J. Pierzynski take the field tonight for the White Sox, remember the following date:

Nov. 14, 2003.

Its the day in which Pierzynski was a part of an infamous blockbuster trade between the Twins and Giants. Minnesota sent its 26-year-old promising catcher to San Francisco for three young pitchers: Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. Its a deal that drastically changed the fortunes of the two franchises.

But it came eerily close to forever altering two others:

The White Sox and Cubs.

When I got traded to the Giants, I actually thought I was going to the Cubs, Pierzynski revealed to Comcast SportsNet for the upcoming show Inside Look: A.J. Pierzynski. LaTroy Hawkins had just signed with the Cubs and he called me and said hed talked to Dusty Baker and they were going to trade for me the next day.

The Cubs were prepared to offer relievers Todd Wellemeyer and Juan Cruz for Pierzynski, which would have been one of the greatest steals in Cubs history. Already disliked by White Sox fans while playing for the AL-Central rival Twins, Pierzynski was on the verge of going to the North Side where the hate-meter would have gone off-the-charts.

A.J. was ready to pack his bags for Wrigley. But then...

When I got the phone call from Twins GM Terry Ryan, it was actually to the Giants. I guess they came in at the last minute and sweetened their deal and got it done, Pierzynski said.

So when the phone call came, you thought it was going to be the Cubs?

Yes. Actually I did.

Fates would have changed.

Slightly, yeah. It would have been a little bit different progression to my career if I ended up on the North Side.

A.J. would spend just one year in San Francisco before getting released the following December. It was a turbulent, misunderstood season with the Giants in which Pierzynski explains in great detail in the Inside Look program which will air on Comcast SportsNet in July.

Pierzynski signed with the White Sox in January of 2005 and has since become a South Side icon.

Now in the final year of a two-year contract with the White Sox, Pierzynski is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. He loves Chicago and wants to remain with the White Sox. But if they decide to move ahead with Tyler Flowers, and Pierzynski wants to stay in town, would he consider signing with the Cubs?

I could never say no to that, because as much as I love the White Sox, as much as I would love to be here, if they were the only team that came after me and I wanted to continue to play, how could I say no? You know its one of those situations where, they have a good catcher in Geovany Soto, so I dont think thats gonna happen, but its one of those situations where you can never say no to something.

People never thought theyd see Michael Jordan in another uniform and he was a Wizard, you know its one of those things that you just never know what can happen, andI dont want it to happen. I dont want to leave here, but at the same time, Im in a better place than I was two years ago when I had a horrible free agent year because all I wanted to do was stay here. And I still want to stay here and I want to keep playing, but at the same time, I know that Ive done enough here that Im okay with moving on if I have to.

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A torrid two months at the plate helped Jose Abreu end what he found to be an extremely trying 2016 season with numbers close to his career norms.

But even though he finished with an .820 OPS and 100 RBIs for a third straight season, Abreu admits that 2016 was a season unlike any other he'd faced.

While he didn't disclose any theories for the cause of his lengthy struggles, the White Sox first baseman said Sunday he's pleased to have finished on a positive note and thinks that rebounding from those difficulties will only make him stronger. Abreu — who hit .293/.353/.468 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in 695 plate appearances — is also a fan of new White Sox manager Rick Renteria and is equally impressed with the prospects the club acquired this winter.

"Yes, those were different challenges, especially in my mind," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I never in my life experienced some of the kind of struggles like I did last year. But that put me in a better position as a player, as a person too. I'm in a better position now for this season because I learned from the experience."

In spite of his struggles, Abreu was still a league average player through the first four months of the season. But the 2014 All-Star hardly resembled the player who produced a 153 OPS-plus over his first two seasons. His timing was off and Abreu — hitting .269/.325/.413 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs through July 30 — wasn't driving the ball as he typically had in his first two seasons, when he smacked 66 homers.

Abreu was lost at the plate and nobody could figure out why.

But after the arrival of his son, Dariel, who visited him for the first time since he moved to the United States, Abreu took off. He hit .338/.402/.568 the rest of the season with 14 homers and 44 RBIs in 249 trips to the plate.

"Right after last season ended, I had my meeting at my house with my family, just to explain to them how the season was because they know about baseball," Abreu said. "But sometimes they can't register how the process is in a season as long as the major league season is. We talked about it. I explained to them all of the challenges, the problems I had during that season. Once we ended with that meeting, last season was in the past. We moved on and we were trying just to figure out things and how can I do better for this season."

Now in his fourth season in the majors, Abreu has a firm grasp on how the White Sox operate and likes some of the team's modifications. He likes how Renteria thoroughly communicates what he has in mind for the club. Abreu also enjoys being seen as one of the team's leaders and wouldn't mind being a mentor to prized prospect Yoan Moncada.

Now he hopes to carry over his strong finish to the start of the 2017 campaign.

"I'm working on it," Abreu said. "That's one of my goals. Everybody knows that at the beginning of last season, I wasn't performing good. It was kind of a surprise for me, too. But I'm in good shape right now and I believe I will be able to succeed."

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after suffering a stress reaction in his right foot.

The White Sox rookie said Sunday that he noticed the injury gradually building up before he decided to stop his workout on Friday and headed for the training room. An MRI performed Saturday on Tilson -- who is rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early -- revealed the reaction, which isn’t severe as a stress fracture. Given Tilson previously had a stress fracture in his right foot, the White Sox said he'll be sidelined from impact work for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed Herm, thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Tilson wouldn’t be surprised if his injury is related to overcompensating for his left leg, which he has worked tirelessly to rehab since he suffered the injury on Aug. 2 and then had season-ending surgery. Manager Rick Renteria described it as an “irritation” in the area where Tilson suffered a stress fracture in 2013. In the interim, the White Sox will test some of their other options in camp, including veteran Peter Bourjos and minor leaguers Adam Engel and Jacob May, among others.

“But we don’t foresee it to be a long-term issue,” Renteria said. “By being able to shut him down now, it’ll be something he’ll be able to recover from. We’ll just readjust his timetable.”

Minor as Tilson and the White Sox say it is, the outfielder admitted he’s down about having to deal with it after the progress he’d made in his rehab.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But he suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson made enough progress to be a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.

“I guess you could say I’m disappointed,” Tilson said. “But it’s a very minor setback and it’s part of the process. I had a major repair, and these things come up and hopefully we can minimize them as much as we can and hopefully this is the last one. But I’m just going to deal with it and do whatever I can to move forward.”