First Pitch: Softballer Pierre is Ozzie's hero

First Pitch: Softballer Pierre is Ozzie's hero
August 20, 2010, 1:09 am
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Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010
8:09 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO There were many factors in the Chicago White Sox turnaround, most significantly the teams resurgent starting pitching.

But one player who spurred the White Sox offensively and hasnt seemed to slack even as the starters have sputtered is leadoff man Juan Pierre, who Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen took time out to herald before their final game of the season at Minnesotas Target Field on Thursday.

I dont know how he does it, Guillen said. From the first day of spring training, he never changed. Hes played his best when we need him, but hes been the same guy when he struggled and when he was hitting.

Pierres first-inning single extended his hitting streak to eight games, right on the heels of a 16-game streak. The left-fielder, customarily adorned in his baggy pants and high socks, took a 16-inch softball slap at a Carl Pavano offering and deposited it oppositely, in left field, coming around to score on Alex Rios groundout to third. In the second, Pierre singled again, then stole second. Despite getting spiked by shortstop J.J. Hardy on the attempt, and with blood trickling down his arm broke for third on a steal attempt on the very next pitch.

Its not amazingits just the way he plays the game, Guillen said. We need a guy like that to make us go, and hes been doing it. Thats the reason we got him.

Pierre has upped his on-base percentage in every month this season, topping out at .405 heading into action tonight, with an OPS of .828.

To his credit, Pierre has simply kept digging all through the season, seemingly indefatigable. Hes on pace for his biggest base-stealing month yet this season, with nine already in August putting him just two short of his seasons best.

I hope top Chicago outfield prospect Jared Mitchell next year runs to Juan and learn to play baseball, how to go about his business, to prepare for the game every day, to not take anything for granted, Guillen said. Juan went from very good to oh-my-God not playinghe went through every scenario in baseball to do what hes doing. When you have the type of game like Juan does, even your teammates know hes a great pro and very into his game, takes a lot of pride in his game, always talking baseball. And thats something you appreciate as a manager and a coach, people like him.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.