Pierzynski stays aggressive for big night

Pierzynski stays aggressive for big night
April 8, 2014, 12:15 pm
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BOSTON -- AJ Pierzynski is 37 years old. And he's a hacker. Always has been.

That's probably not going to change now that he's the Red Sox' starting catcher, even if most of the rest of the team employs a completely different approach at the plate.

Over the course of his career, he has swung at almost 60 percent of the pitches he's seen. Being around his Boston teammates -- some of whom are renowned for their patience and strike-zone awareness -- hasn't curbed Pierzynski's willingness to swing. In fact, he's swinging at almost 82 percent of the pitches he sees, according to FanGraphs.com. (League average is just under 50 percent.)

That approach had not served him well until Monday night, when he went 3-for-4 in a 5-1 win over the Rangers. Even after his slump-busting evening, he's hitting .250 with five singles in 20 plate appearances.

"Nice to contribute something," Pierzynski said Monday. "It’s been obviously been a long week, a frustrating week. But it's new day every day. Good thing about baseball is you always get a chance, either later in the game or the next day."

The Red Sox have committed to Pierzynski as their No. 1 backstop as he plays out his one-year contract. They know what kind of hitter he is, and on Monday manager John Farrell attempted to let Pierzynski's attacking style work for him.

Before the first pitch of Pierzynski's first at-bat in the second inning, Farrell called for a hit-and-run with Xander Bogaerts on first. Pierzynski slapped an outside fastball that was not near the plate -- "I think it was almost a pitch-out," Pierzynski said later -- through a shift and into left field that moved Bogaerts all the way to third.

"He's an instinctual player," Farrell said of Pierzynski. "We know he's aggressive. We try to take advantage of that aggressiveness at the plate when we can . . . I think more than everything, a couple of base hits for him [are important] to hopefully get a little momentum going on his part."

Pierzynski scored twice to go along with his three-hit performance, and he said that the early hit-and-run call got his mind in a good place for the remainder of the game.

"Sometimes you try to do too much and do things you’re not capable of instead of just letting things happen," he said. "I was actually happy that John put on the hit-and-run on the first pitch in the first at-bat because it kind of just helped me relax and helped me do something to help the team and it worked out."

Pierzynski said he's told Farrell that he's open to being called upon to hit-and-run, bunt, whatever the Red Sox think will help them on a nightly basis. He admitted Farrell asked him to hit-and-run during an at-bat in Baltimore, but he missed the sign.

"There’s no pride," Pierzynski said. "It’s about me trying to help the team . . . I tell [Farrell] I’ll do whatever you need me to do. Just tell me."

Just don't count on the Red Sox asking Pierzynski to take many pitches. That's never been part of his aggressive offensive game, and they know it.