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updated: 12/21/2012 12:48 AM

Pierzynski signs with Rangers

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  • With the departure of A.J. Pierzynski, Tyler Flowers, above, finally gets his shot at being the White Sox' everyday catcher.

      With the departure of A.J. Pierzynski, Tyler Flowers, above, finally gets his shot at being the White Sox' everyday catcher.
    Associated Press

 
 

While dressed in a White Sox uniform the past eight seasons, there was one constant with A.J. Pierzynski.

He was booed, with extreme prejudice.

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From Seattle to Boston and every major-league stadium in between, Pierzynski always was the bad guy.

The free agent will be wearing a Rangers uniform in 2013 after reportedly signing a one-year, $7.5 million deal with Texas on Thursday.

And here's a prediction -- when the Rangers make their one and only appearance at U.S. Cellular Field in August (23-25), Pierzynski will be showered with applause.

With Pierzynski's departure, Paul Konerko is the lone remaining player from the 2005 World Series champions.

"A.J. is a friend; I wish him the best with the Rangers," Konerko said Thursday night in an email to the Daily Herald. "He is one of the hardest workers day in and day out and came to play as much as anybody I've played with."

That's why just about every White Sox fan grew to love Pierzynski during his extended run on the South Side.

While he constantly clashed with opposing players and managers, umpires and even his own teammates and coaches, Pierzynski came ready to play every day at one of the most demanding positions in sports.

From 2001-12, Pierzynski was behind the plate in more games (1,512) than any catcher in baseball. And he showed last season he still can produce, hitting a career-high 27 home runs and winning his first Silver Slugger Award.

Pierzynski's experience and potent left-handed bat are going to be missed in the Sox' lineup, but new general manager Rick Hahn has been strongly hinting that it's time for Tyler Flowers to get a chance to play.

"Based on the history we have with (Flowers), I think he'll be a quality everyday catcher in the big leagues, yes," Hahn said after replacing Kenny Williams as GM in October.

"I think it's tough for a kid, especially for a young kid, to have sporadic playing time as he did this past year and continue that development.

"Defensively, he can certainly handle the position. I think he's going to get on base some, and he's going to have some power. He can be a valuable and viable every day catcher in the big leagues."

Time will tell.

When he squares up a pitch, the 26-year-old Flowers can hit the baseball with prodigious power. He's also a better defensive catcher than Pierzynski, who turns 36 on Dec. 30.

But stats are stats, and Flowers has a .205/.307/.388 hitting line over parts of four seasons with the White Sox. Last year he batted .213 with 7 home runs and 13 RBI in 52 games.

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Flowers fractured his left hand when he was hit by a Chris Perez pitch at Cleveland on Oct. 2.

"It's an interesting situation where (Sox) fans and the city, I don't think they are too happy," Flowers told MLB.com Thursday. "I hope I get a fair chance, not just from the organization but also from the fan base, to show I'm capable of catching."

Unless Hahn goes outside and adds a veteran backup catcher, Hector Gimenez is Flowers' likely backup.

A switch hitter, Gimenez was 5-for-11 (.455) in five games with the Sox late last season after hitting .259 at Class AAA Charlotte. Gimenez, 30, played in two games with the Houston Astros in 2006 and four games with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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