After ‘rough, long week,’ A.J. Pierzynski relieved to contribute to victory
|04.08.14 at 1:09 am ET|
If you’ve been discouraged watching A.J. Pierzynski over the first week of regular season games, you’re not alone. He’s been just as frustrated at the plate as fans may have been watching him.
But Monday night was a turnaround of sorts for Pierzynski, who went 3-for-4 and was pivotal in the production of the team’s first three runs of the evening.
“It was nice to contribute something,” Pierzynski said. “It’s been a rough, long week, a frustrating week.”
Pierzynski’s approach certainly differs from the philosophy of recent Red Sox teams. The club led the majors in pitches seen in 2013, averaging four pitches per plate appearance. Pierzynski is more of an aggressive hitter who doesn’t wait around to swing. Of the 62 pitches he’s seen over his 24 at-bats, Pierzynski has swung the bat at all but 10 of them. He’s currently averaging about 2.6 pitches per plate appearance after sitting around 3.3 last season.
So the club’s new starting backstop doesn’t quite share the same offensive philosophy as the majority of the members of the lineup. Pierzynski has been playing in the major leagues for 17 years, shis approach is unlikely to change now.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute.
His first at-bat on Monday evening was a prime example of what he can bring to the table. With Xander Bogaerts on first and one out, manager John Farrell put on a hit-and-run on the first pitch. One thing that Pierzynski does often and well is put the ball in play, something he managed to do on a pitch that was so far outside of the zone, Pierzynski said “it was almost a pitch out.” Regardless, he poked it past the third baseman Adrian Beltre — who was shifted into the shortstop position — to put runners on the corners. .
“I was actually happy [Farrell] put on the hit-and-run on the first pitch in my first at-bat because it helped me relax,” Pierzynski said. “I knew I had to do something to help the team, and it worked out.”
That’s where a lot of Pierzynski’s offensive value lies. He’s able to put wood on the ball, and he’s willing to do that any way the manager sees fit.
“[Farrell] and I talked about it, and I said ‘Yeah, if you want me to hit and run, if you want me to bunt, whatever you want me to do to help,” Pierzynski recalled. “There’s no pride, it’s about trying to help the team.”
Obviously, Pierzynski brings more to the table than just a bat. He and Monday night’s starter John Lackey have seemingly developed a good rapport through their first two games as battery mates. Through his first two outings, Lackey is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA, allowing just eight hits and two earned runs in 13 innings. He credits his catcher with calling a good game, and knows how important his veteran presence can be.
“[He has] a lot of experience,” Lackey said. “I faced him a ton of times so he kind of knows what I’ve got. He likes to be aggressive, and I like to be aggressive, so I think we work well together.”
Pierzynski is clearly an aggressive player, both at the plate and behind the dish — always has been, and at 37, probably always will be. For the Red Sox and the catcher alike, that will mean days of frustration but also days when, as on Monday, he offers winning contributions.
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