White Sox

A.J. 'literally one call away' from leaving


A.J. 'literally one call away' from leaving

Friday, Dec. 3, 2010
7:40 PM

By Jeremy Lynn

Six years ago, A.J. Pierzynski couldn't find a team after being released by the San Francisco Giants.

Now, he'll call Chicago home for at least a couple more seasons - his seventh and eighth on the South Side - after re-signing with the White Sox Friday for 8 million over two years.

"I'm ecstatic, I didn't really think it would work out," Pierzynski said. "I had called my mom and told her I was going to a different team, it was bittersweet. I'm happy a team wanted me as much as (another organization) did, but Rick Hahn called and it was an offer we were looking for."

While it's a happy day for Pierzynski and the White Sox, the veteran backstop was extremely close to adding "former" in front of his current employer.

"When I say we were close, we were literally one phone call away from being done," Pierzynski stated about the negotiation process Thursday night. "At the last second I got a call from Hahn, we were interested and it got done in about 15 minutes.

"I really, really thought it was over. It was hard for me to believe with all we'd been through in Chicago but it worked out and it feels right, which is all I can ask for as a player."

Pierzynski, who turns 34 on Dec. 30, struggled at the plate last season with his impending free agency on his mind, "I was trying to do too much - get five hits every at bat - to show everyone what I was capable of doing instead of just letting it happen."

Five hits surely wasn't happening, Pierzynski was having trouble getting even one in most game early on. He hit .247 in the first half of 2010 before getting hot in the season's final month to finish with a .270 batting average, down from .300 in 2009, with four less home runs (13 in '09 to nine in '10).

"It was my fault, but you live and you learn and I hope to grow from it," reflected Pierzynski on his early-season slump. "I tried too hard and pressed, and we got off to a bad start. You look up and you're hitting .180 in May and you start pressing. I'm going to try not to let it happen again."

Whether or not Pierzynski's hitting can rebound may not matter as much with Friday's signing of left-handed slugger Adam Dunn, a clear signal the team wants to win just as bad as he does.

"Aren't white Sox always in (win now) mode?" Pierzynski pondered. "One thing about the White Sox, they always want to win and it's a very attractive quality about this organization. They do whatever they can to win - signing free agents and making trades - whether it's Jerry (Reinsdorf), Kenny (Williams) or Ozzie (Guillen) they do everything they can to win. That's why I wanted to come back and be a part of it."

Part of that willingness to win included Williams' signing of Pierzynski before the 2005 season, a move that worked out pretty well for both sides, and could help provide another World Series championship.

"I know people say it all the time, but I had more lucrative offers out there," Pierzynski admitted. "Not to toot my own horn, but I took less money to come back, and if it helps the White Sox win and get better it'll be a great decision. I just want to win and any little thing we can do is great."

Pierzynski was specifically referring to the not-so-little act of him and Dunn deferring money to later years of their contracts to aid in the potential re-signing of Paul Konerko. While Pierzynski has no secret information about the future of his longtime teammate and "good friend," he hopes to see Konerko wearing black and white again next year.

"The one thing (the White Sox) have to do is bring Paul Konerko back. He should finish his career as a White Sox. He's done so much for the team and the community on and off the field, it would be unbelievable for me to take the field as a White Sox and not have Paul Konerko on the field with me.

"I'll do whatever I have to do to help being him back."

Whether or not the Sox's captain returns for 2011 and beyond, Pierzynski is happy with the current roster.

"We have strong guys and strong leadership at the top, it starts with Ozzie and works down," Pierzynski said. "Everyone talks about clubhouse this and clubhouse that... if we're winning, the clubhouse will be great, if we're losing it'll be bad."

For his part, Pierzynski wishes he could play "all 162 (games)," - and while knowing that's not possible - he remains happy with Guillen's willingness to run him out there as often as he can. "That's why I love playing for him.

"You all know I'm not a happy camper when I have to take days off, I'm pretty miserable."

With Pierzynski in place, a new source of power in the middle of the lineup and the potential return of Konerko, there may not be many unhappy days over the next two years for the South Sider's field general.

Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

The White Sox rebuilding puzzle is getting closer to completion.

Zack Collins is reportedly en route to the major leagues, according to a report from Miami talk-show host Andy Slater. That adds another one of the White Sox highly rated prospects to the growing list of them at the big league level as the franchise’s contention window looks set to open relatively soon.

Collins was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016, selected with the No. 10 pick that year out of the University of Miami. Currently ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the farm system, he’s always been praised for his offensive abilities. Last season at Double-A Birmingham, he finished the year with a .382 on-base percentage and launched 15 homers, also winning the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game.

In 48 games with Triple-A Charlotte this season, Collins owns a .258/.382/.497 slash line with nine homers, nine doubles, 38 RBIs and 35 walks.

Collins has been lauded as a big bat, but there have been questions about other parts of his game as he’s risen through the system. From the day he was drafted, there were questions about his defensive ability, leading to speculation that he might one day end up at a position besides catcher. He’s also racked up the strikeouts in the minors, with 396 of them in 322 games over his four minor league seasons.

But the White Sox haven’t wavered in their confidence that Collins can be a big league catcher, and it looks like that’s the position he’ll fill should the White Sox call him up before the start of next week’s Crosstown series with the Cubs. Welington Castillo was removed from Sunday’s loss to the New York Yankees with back tightness. The team said Castillo will be reevaluated on Monday. With this report of Collins’ promotion, it looks like Castillo could be headed to the injured list.

Another top prospect reaching the majors adds another tangible example of rebuilding progress. Fans have been clamoring for the promotions of Dylan Cease and Luis Robert all season long, and while Collins might be a little further down in the rankings than those two, this should still please fans who, even in a season filled with positives, want to see a more rapid advancement toward the rebuild’s ultimate goal.

Collins will perhaps benefit from a lack of pressure, what with James McCann in the midst of a potentially All-Star season as the White Sox primary catcher. The White Sox could perhaps continue to lean on McCann, allowing Collins to ease into the major leagues.

But just like Michael Kopech last August and Eloy Jimenez in March, Collins’ mere arrival is a step forward in this process, one that should please fans immensely.

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Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues


Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues

Yoan Moncada's battle with his back issues might not be as over as we thought.

The third baseman made his return to the White Sox starting lineup Sunday following a four-game layoff due to a mild back strain. But his return didn't last long. After a fourth-inning strikeout in his second plate appearance of the 10-3 loss to the visiting New York Yankees, Moncada was removed from the game with what the team announced as upper back tightness.

Moncada is described as day to day. The White Sox have an off day Monday ahead of the start of a two-game Crosstown series at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

"He's doing good. I think I'm not the only one who noticed his grimace in the swing. It made no sense to continue to expose him to that," manager Rick Renteria said after Sunday's game. "All indications are he should be ready to go on Tuesday.

"Didn't seem to put him in any predicament. Hopefully it didn't set him back. All indications are that hopefully he'll be back on Tuesday."

Moncada was removed from Monday's game against the Washington Nationals with what was initially described as back spasms. Renteria updated the verbiage to a back strain in the following days. Moncada missed Tuesday's game against the Nationals, went through a Wednesday off day and then missed the first three games of the four-game weekend set with the Yankees. His return lasted all of four innings Sunday before he was taken out again.

"Just watching the swing, watching the finish, which is what I was concerned with, getting through the ball. He's ready to get through the ball, it's just the finish. He's feeling a little something there," Renteria said. "You can't replicate it in any drill work. We've tried to do it. Everything he did was good. All the work he did was good.

"Everything we tried to do to replicate it, it wasn't existent until you get into the game, then you know. That's why I think it was a good — I don't know if you want to call it a test, but it was a test. We wanted to see where he was at. Didn't make any sense to continue to push him. Get him ready and calm it down and get him ready for the series against the North Siders."

Moncada wasn't the only White Sox hitter removed from Sunday's game. Welington Castillo, who was the designated hitter, was taken out with what the team announced as lower back tightness. Renteria confirmed after the game that Castillo's injury came on his swing in the second inning, a line drive off the center-field wall that ended up as only a single. Castillo will be reevaluated during the off day Monday.

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