|Red Sox release A.J. Pierzynski||07.16.14 at 3:40 pm ET|
One week after they designated catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment, the Red Sox announced that they had released the 37-year-old.
Pierzynski, signed by the Red Sox this offseason to a one-year, $8.25 million contract with the hope that he would offer solid offensive production against right-handed pitching while serving as a one-year placeholder to permit prospect Christian Vazquez to conclude his development in the minor leagues, hit .254 with a .286 OBP and .348 slugging mark in 72 games. That offensive struggle, according to GM Ben Cherington, was at the heart of the team’s decision to release Pierzynski and call up Christian Vazquez in the final days of the first half.
Pierzynski is now a free agent.
|Ozzie Guillen: ‘Sad about’ A.J. Pierzynski getting designated for assignment||07.15.14 at 7:21 pm ET|
MINNEAPOLIS — When Ozzie Guillen managed A.J. Pierzynski from 2005-11, two clashed frequently while together in the White Sox clubhouse. Yet Guillen ultimately appreciated what Pierzynski offered his team, and so given his feelings about Pierzynski’s value, the former manager — in Minneapolis as a TV commentator for the All-Star Game — said that he was not expecting to see his former catcher released by the Red Sox last week.
“I am [surprised] because I don’t know the reason. That’s up to them, the reason,” said Guillen. “A.J., when I was with him, I think he did a tremendous job. Obviously, when you don’t pitch well, you don’t hit well, I think the reason they did it is because they have a prospect coming up. I think that’s a good reason to do it, but in the meanwhile, you have to be inside to know about what was really going on. I was sad about it, but hopefully A.J. can get a job.”
Though Guillen spoke highly of Pierzynski’s character as a winning baseball player, he was not shocked by the idea that Pierzynski may have had a difficult time fitting in with the Red Sox.
“A.J. is not always an easy guy to deal with,” said Guillen. “I know A.J., for some people when you see him, he sounds arrogant. I think one thing about A.J. that I always appreciated is that he shows up to play every day. He shows up to play and he shows up to win. He’s the type of guy that, when he’s not winning, he gets upset and sometimes says things he shouldn’t say. But one thing I love about A.J.: No one in Boston — no one, and I respect the clubhouse, I respect the manager and I respect the fans — but nobody in Boston can say A.J. is not a winner. He is. … He shows up to win. He’s not just showing up to play, he’s showing up to win, and some people can’t handle that. One thing A.J. Pierzynski has is a winning attitude.”
|Gabe Kapler on MFB: A.J. Pierzynski ‘a harmless individual’ who ‘just didn’t perform’ in Boston||07.10.14 at 12:07 pm ET|
Fox Sports 1 analyst and former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler checked in with Middays with MFB on Thursday to discuss the Red Sox’ struggles and the controversy surrounding A.J. Pierzynski. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Red Sox released Pierzynski on Wednesday, and reports indicate the veteran catcher — who came to Boston with a reputation of being abrasive — had issues with teammates in the clubhouse. Kapler knows Pierzynski, having played winter league ball with him in Hawaii in the late 1990s.
“I got to know him well, and he’s a harmless individual,” Kapler said. “Big heart, sweetheart of a guy. Has the propensity to rub some folks the wrong way if things aren’t going well for him. And I think that’s the most important thing to look at here. He’s having his worst season ever offensively.”
Added Kapler: “We all have to be careful not to kick a guy on his way out, right? I think that that is the common thread, it’s the easiest thing to do. While I think there was certainly an element of clubhouse chemistry and his ability to connect with his teammates, I think the bottom line here is that he just didn’t perform. And that’s what Boston Red Sox front office members want to see — does a guy come in and perform? At some point you have to say, look, we don’t see this getting better.”
Christian Vazquez was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Pierzynski on the roster, and the young catcher showed promise in his debut Wednesday night.
“The other part of this equation — and it’s irresponsible not to illuminate it — is that the Red Sox want to see Vazquez: plus defender, a guy who can shut down a running game,” Kapler said. “[John] Farrell‘s a big fan — actually, all of baseball is a big fan. And they want to see what this guy can do behind the plate, stopping the running game.”
With Wednesday’s win, the Red Sox improved to 40-51. The defending World Series champions are 9 1/2 game behind the first-place Orioles in the American League East. Kapler said he does not hold Farrell entirely responsible for this year’s struggles.
“I think John Farrell‘s doing a fine job,” Kapler said. “Look, a lot of things have gone wrong for the Boston Red Sox. Last year they were sort of playing like superhero versions of themselves. A lot of them have sort of regressed back to the mean. You have a group of guys that — particularly in the lineup — that aren’t doing a very good job of scoring runs. And sans [Jon] Lester and [John] Lackey, there hasn’t been a whole lot of dependability in the starting rotation. The bullpen has been a pleasant surprise in a lot of different ways.
“But look, Farrell can’t walk into the batter’s box and hold the bat for these guys. And until they are scoring runs like we saw last year, it’s going to be a pretty tough road for them.”
|Ben Cherington: As trade deadline approached, Red Sox in ‘unusual … unique’ position||07.09.14 at 8:12 pm ET|
After 90 games, it’s hard to assess the 2014 Red Sox season as anything but a failure.
A Red Sox squad fresh off a 97-win campaign that resulted in a World Series title was expected to once again establish itself as the cream of the crop in the American League this season -- not slump to the status of cellar dweller.
This is not the 1998 Marlins, who dropped from a 92-70 record (and a World Series title) in 1997 to a dreadful 55-108 season the following year due to a monumental fire sale. The 2014 Red Sox have a payroll of around $164 million and retained 17 of the 2013 team’s 25-man World Series roster.
Simply put, no one expected the Red Sox to be 12 games under .500 at this point of the season. General manager Ben Cherington is among those struggling to make sense of what has transpired.
Now 10 1/2 games behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East, the Red Sox have been put in a position that Cherington has not been familiar with — possibly taking on the role of “seller” as the trade deadline draws near.
“I think we’re in an unusual and perhaps unique position,” Cherington said. “It’s unusual in the sense that we haven’t been in this position — at least since I’ve been here — of even thinking about trading players at the deadline. So that’s unusual. It’s unique because on the one hand, our team is where it is. On the other hand, we’ve got guys on the team who are performing at a very high level who were part of winning a World Series months ago, and that just doesn’t happen often in baseball.
“Sometimes teams are sellers, but not necessarily with guys that are coming off of success like that. We’ll just have to see what happens. As I’ve said before, whatever we do will be with the mind of trying to get better as quickly possible and trying to build the next good team as quickly as possible.”
When he inked a one-year, $8.25 million contract with Boston on December 3, 2013, A.J. Pierzynski was expected to be a short-term, if not suitable, solution behind the plate for the Red Sox this season.
He may not have been in the team’s plans for the long haul, but even Pierzynski couldn’t have expected that his tenure in Boston would reach its conclusion at such an early juncture.
For Red Sox manager John Farrell, the move was necessary for the team to look to the future, as Pawtucket catcher Christian Vazquez was called up to fill Pierzynski’s open roster spot. Vazquez is a part of the team’s future beyond 2014; Pierzynski never was, which is why he was signed to a one-year contract as something of a placeholder.
“Obviously we designated A.J. earlier today,” Farrell said. “It’s an opportunity for us to invest in players that we feel are going to be here beyond 2014 and while there may be other decisions that are forthcoming, we felt like the place we where we were going to start with was behind the plate.”
“You never want to see a teammate get released or have to leave for any reason,” said catcher David Ross before Wednesday’s game against the White Sox. “We wish him the best, he’s had a great major league career up to this point.”
With the departure of Jarrod Saltalamacchia after the 2013 season, Boston looked for a backstop that would both approximate Saltalamachia’s impressive offensive numbers from last year (.273/.338/.466 with 54 extra-base hits, 65 RBIs) while also being on a short-term deal that would avoid blocking promising catchers in the organization going forward – such as Vazquez or Portland’s Blake Swihart.
For Farrell, Pierzynski — who averaged 22 home runs and 74 RBIs over 2012 and 2013 — fit all those requirements.
Red Sox manager John Farrell joined Dale & Holley on Wednesday afternoon to discuss A.J. Pierzynski‘s departure, the current state of the club and trade rumors regarding Jake Peavy. To listen to the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Pierzynski was designated for assignment Wednesday afternoon, a roster move that Farrell confirmed during his appearance.
Farrell said that Pierzynski, who hit .254 with four home runs and 31 RBIs while posting a .286 OBP in 72 games this year, was not made expendable due to his personality or performance at the plate, but due to the need to bring up more youth to the club, as Pawtucket catcher Christian Vazquez will be called up and and get the start behind the plate for Wednesday night’s game.
“It’s at that point in the season where you start to look to invest in young players and take advantage of the games remaining for us,” Farrell said. “We look to players who might be here beyond this season, and in that case it’s Christian Vazquez, who’s behind the plate here tonight.”
Farrell continued: “This has been a matter of us taking a look internally at, what are the players we’re going to continue to build forward with? And we’ve started with what’s taken place behind the plate.”
While Farrell said that the team is not mailing it in this season, he acknowledged that the team is making a move to look to the future by playing some of the organization’s most promising players.
“We’re turning the page in terms of investing in young players,” Farrell said. “We’ve had a number of young players in starting roles for the vast majority of this season. I wouldn’t say that the white flag is being waved, because inside our clubhouse, I can honestly tell you that feeling does not exist. This is a matter of how we’re going to go out and beat Chris Sale tonight.”
|Red Sox baserunning woes persist as A.J. Pierzynski, Stephen Drew run into outs||07.02.14 at 12:17 am ET|
The Red Sox don’t have enough rallies to snuff them out through their own actions. After a 2-1 loss to the Cubs, the Sox rank 26th in the majors in average (.241), 13th in OBP (.319), 27th in slugging (.365), 23rd in OPS (.684) and 27th in the majors — and dead last in the AL — in runs per game (3.71). Those woeful numbers from the batter’s box make a couple of the team’s deficiencies — both of which were on display in Tuesday’s game — all the more glaring.
The Red Sox have taken a two-pronged approach to running into outs. While their rate of running into outs while taking an extra base has been roughly league average (the Sox have 28 such outs; the AL average entering Tuesday was 27), their masochistic tendencies have been particularly pronounced at second base. On Tuesday, A.J. Pierzynski slammed a ball off the Wall in left and tried to advance to second. The carom was played cleanly by left fielder Chris Coghlan, who threw out Pierzynski by perhaps 30 feet at second, beating him by such a margin that Pierzynski did not bother to slider on the tag play. That marked the 13th time this year that a Sox runner has been thrown out at second (on a play other than a force or a caught stealing), tied for most in the American League.
“A.J. is trying to stretch a single into a double, probably a little over-aggressive on his part,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “Coghlan makes a good play off the wall and throws a strike into second base.”
“Trying to get in scoring position,” Pierzynski said brusquely. “That’s it.”
It marked the second time this year that Pierzynski has been thrown out at second — not even close to the team and American League leader in the category, Dustin Pedroia, who has been thrown out at second five times (most recently trying to stretch a single into a double on Saturday in New York). Pedroia is tied for fourth in the A.L. with six outs on the bases; Pierzynski has run into three outs, tied with Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr. for second on the team. Read the rest of this entry »
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