White Sox' Pierre always ready

 
 
Updated 3/9/2011 11:13 AM
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  • Juan Pierre is greeted by Carlos Quentin after scoring on a single by Paul Konerko in a Cactus League game last week in Glendale, Ariz.

    Juan Pierre is greeted by Carlos Quentin after scoring on a single by Paul Konerko in a Cactus League game last week in Glendale, Ariz. Associated Press

  • White Sox left fielder Juan Pierre, here hitting a solo home run against the Tigers in Detroit last August, doesn't draw walks like most dangerous leadoff hitters. Last season, Pierre walked 45 times in 651 at-bats.

    White Sox left fielder Juan Pierre, here hitting a solo home run against the Tigers in Detroit last August, doesn't draw walks like most dangerous leadoff hitters. Last season, Pierre walked 45 times in 651 at-bats. Associated Press/2010 file

  • Juan Pierre struck out only 47 times for the White Sox last season, and he helped his on-base percentage reach .341 by being hit by 21 pitches.

      Juan Pierre struck out only 47 times for the White Sox last season, and he helped his on-base percentage reach .341 by being hit by 21 pitches. SCOT GREGOR | Staff Photographer

  • White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen says no one works harder in baseball than outfielder Juan Pierre, left, who talks with Alex Rios during workouts last month in Glendale, Ariz.

    White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen says no one works harder in baseball than outfielder Juan Pierre, left, who talks with Alex Rios during workouts last month in Glendale, Ariz. Associated Press

  • Juan Pierre

    Juan Pierre

Earlier in spring training, members of a local cable TV sports station rose before dawn and headed to the White Sox' Camelback Ranch complex in Glendale, Ariz.

They were there for a story on veteran Sox left fielder Juan Pierre, who typically is the first to arrive at 6 a.m. to begin a lengthy day of weight training and workouts.

This was not breaking news.

Those who have even remotely followed Pierre's 11 years in the big leagues know that few -- if any -- players put in more hours of preparation.

"That's just what I have to do. It's what I've always done and what I'll continue to do as long as I'm playing the game," Pierre said during some rare down time this spring. "When you're not the biggest, strongest, the most athletic even, you have to do whatever is in your power to make up for that. For me, it's putting in the work."

Never a day off

TV cameras should have been at U.S. Cellular Field last July 11. They would have had an even better story on Pierre's freakish training schedule.

It was the final game before the all-star break and it was blazing hot at U.S. Cellular Field.

While most of his teammates lounged in the air-conditioned clubhouse and shored up plans for their upcoming three-day break, Pierre was in the outfield taking flyballs and practicing on his throwing.

"He's unbelievable," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said that day. "I've been in this game almost half my life and I've never seen anybody that works harder than Juan."

Tough job

Pierre has the drive, there is no doubt about that, but there is a method to his workout madness.

He is a base stealer -- baseball's active leader with 459. Ask anybody in the game and they'll likely tell you that swiping bases is tougher on the body than anything else.

"It can take a toll," Pierre said. "Through the years, I've been hit by throws, spiked, there have been some pretty bad collisions. But that's just all part of it, and it's something I've gotten used to."

While he's 33 years old and played in 160 games last season, Pierre appeared in all 162 five years in a row (2003-07), and all of that training comes in handy.

"I worked hard over the winter and I feel as strong as I ever have," Pierre said. "The age is there, but I don't feel it. I still have my speed and first-step quickness."

Running wild

Not only is Pierre the leading active steals leader (teammate Omar Vizquel is second with 389), the veteran outfielder showed he still has wheels while leading the major leagues with 68 stolen bases last season.

The total was the second highest in franchise history (Rudy Law had 77 steals in 1983), and Pierre became the first White Sox player since Luis Aparicio (1961) to lead the majors.

Hitting the brakes

Pierre, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, is not a flawless player.

Even with all of the work, he still has one of the worst throwing arms in the game. To his credit, Pierre has a knack for making difficult catches, so it's almost a wash there.

At the plate, he's a highly skilled bunter but doesn't draw walks like most dangerous leadoff hitters. Last season, Pierre walked 45 times in 651 at-bats.

To his credit, again, Pierre struck out only 47 times and boosted his on-base percentage to a sturdy .341 by being hit by 21 pitches.

Next in line

Pierre likes to play every day, and he prepares himself for 162 games.

Look for him in left field on a regular basis again this season, but either Lastings Milledge or Alejandro De Aza should be waiting on the bench if he needs a breather.

Dayan Viciedo is also in the outfield mix, and while he is better suited for right field, he could emerge in left in 2012 if Pierre departs via free agency.

Top outfield prospect Jared Mitchell sat out last season with a torn tendon in his left ankle, but he could also be a factor next spring.

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