Rangers add C A.J. Pierzynski, say he will be starter
They shared a laugh over lunch a few days before Wednesday's announcement that Pierzynski's one-year free agent contract with Texas was complete. Both considered the All-Star issue dead after it happened in July, even though Pierzynski had a cryptic retort when Washington explained the difficulty of the decision.
"Everybody keeps trying to make a big deal out of it, but I've known Wash for a really long time," Pierzynski said. "It's not going to change the way I feel about Ron Washington because I know what he's done in this game and I know where he stands and what he's all about. It's over and done with for me."
Washington said Pierzynski will be the primary catcher, pushing Geovany Soto to the backup role after he re-signed as a free agent. Pierzynski hit .278 with a career-high 27 home runs in 135 games for the Chicago White Sox, while Soto took a pay cut after hitting .196 in 47 games following a trade with the Chicago Cubs.
Pierzynski, a two-time All-Star who has been to the playoffs four times and won the 2005 World Series with the White Sox, has long been known as an irritant to opposing players and even someone who didn't always please his teammates either. Washington says he always felt otherwise.
"I always loved him; I never hated him," Washington said. "I always loved him because he always believed he did anything and everything he had to do to try to beat you. I admired that."
The Rangers needed a left-handed power hitter after losing All-Star slugger Josh Hamilton in free agency to the Los Angeles. They also had a void at catcher because Mike Napoli, a key to Texas reaching a second straight World Series in 2011, bolted for Boston.
Soto became a free agent when the Rangers didn't agree to a contract before a deadline earlier this month. But he eventually agreed to a $2.75 million, one-year contract, a more than 20 percent decrease from his $4.3 million payroll last season. Terms of Pierzynski's deal weren't disclosed.
Pierzynski is a .284 career hitter in 1,629 games with the White Sox (2005-12), San Francisco (2004) and Minnesota (1998-2003). He could also play some designated hitter. He caught 121 games last year, leads and all active players with 1,559 games as a catcher and doesn't see a need to slow down even though he turns 36 on Sunday.
"Physically, I feel awesome," said Pierzynski, who matched his career high with 77 RBIs last season. "Mentally, I'm as good as I've ever been. I always joke that I have to thank my mom and dad because they gave me good genes as far as health goes."
To make room for Pierzynski on the 40-man roster, the Rangers designated catcher Luis Martinez for assignment.