Sox Drawer: A.J. prefers tougher Bacon

Sox Drawer: A.J. prefers tougher Bacon
February 16, 2011, 11:22 pm
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Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 5:25 p.m. Updated 6:30 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - In his first two major league seasons, Gordon Beckham took a page out of the Marv Albert School of Broadcasting by saying Yesss! to everything.

Fans, media, appearances, photo shoots, ice cream socials... you name it.

So on the day he reported to spring training - almost a week before his official reporting date - Beckham had a message waiting for him from teammate A.J. Pierzynski: Just say no.

Hes got a locker next to me, so Im trying to teach him to be more mean and tell people no sometimes, said Pierzynski, an expert in the art of saying no.

In the six years Ive covered him, Pierzynski (one of my favorite White Sox players) has given me every excuse in the book to not do an interview.

I have to work out.
I have to make a phone call.
I have to do something.
I have to do nothing.

Ive heard it all.

A.J. can also be extremely accomodating and gives some of the best interviews around - I think he knows it - so its worth getting turned down from time to time. Its actually become quite entertaining. On Wednesday Pierzynski said no to a pack of TV reporters, and then came back an hour later to give some of the best sound of the day - thats A.J.

But back to Beckham.

After his scorching White Sox debut in 2009 when he batted .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 103 games, Beckham came into last season treated like the second coming. He didnt believe the hype, nor the struggles that came next, which completely blind-sided him.

Ive got something to prove, said Beckham, standing at his locker with an additional 10 pounds of muscle added, not just to his body, but likely his brain too. I was probably more comfortable last year (at spring training), but I think thats a good thing. Last year I was probably too comfortable, lets just put it that way.

The season began with Beckham batting .235 in April, which wasnt a big deal until May came around and things only got worse. He hit just .159.

The rookie sensation was officially in a sophomore slump. There was even talk of possibly sending him down to the minor leagues. And when you add on the expectations, playing a new position, and a spotlight that was starting to burn a hole right through him, the heat was almost too much to take.

He didnt know what he was in for, Pierzynski said. Thats why you look at people who have the second year where theyre like, Oh man. Not neccessarily because their talent is gone or they tried less, I just think they just get in a situation where theyre spread too thin. Its not only his fault, its the organization, people outside, your mom, your dad, its everyone.

"I went through it and everyone went through it where you have that year and people are like... you can do this and you can do that. We need you to do this appearance, we need you to do this interview, and you want say yes to everybody.

In a way, thats what the White Sox did this off-season in regards to free agency. They shattered their piggy bank by signing lefty slugger Adam Dunn, and brought back Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, two pivotal mentors to Beckham.

To get Paul back and get A.J. back, these guys helped me come up, and helped me last year with my struggles, Beckham said. As a young guy, I didnt want to be in here with no Paul, no A.J., no Adam Dunn. We subtract those guys, you never know what this season is going to look like.

So how does Beckham look so far.... just hours into camp?

I like the way hes talking. I like the way hes acting, Pierzynski said. Hes got a different mind set this year, and thats good. I look forward to him coming out and having a great year, and as long as you guys dont annoint him the second coming of Babe Ruth, well be alright.

But can Gordon, the ultimate people person, actually say no to the people?

"I do need to learn."

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.