CHICAGO — For A.J. Pierzynski, the opportunity for a fresh start with a perennial contender was too good to pass up.
Pierzynski on Saturday signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, choosing them from among several suitors, 10 days after being released by the Boston Red Sox.
The veteran catcher didn’t divulge what other teams showed interest in him, but said playing for a contender was a priority.
"You want to try and find a team that can win. You don’t want to go to the team that’s in last place and just kind of play out the string," said Pierzynski, who was in the starting lineup and batting sixth for the Cardinals’ afternoon matchup against the Chicago Cubs.
Pierzynski, 37, now with his sixth team in 17 seasons, spoke with St. Louis manager Mike Matheny Friday before signing and expressed his desire to continue playing and willingness to accept whatever role was best for the team.
"I just wanted to make sure he was a good fit," Matheny said. "Explain to him the lay of the land here, kind of what are expectations are. Also, get kind of a feel of where he is. There are certain guys kind of on that bubble (questioning) ‘Do I still want to keep doing this?’"
The Cardinals have been looking for a steady presence behind the plate since All-Star Yadier Molina went down with a torn ligament in his right thumb on July 9. Molina underwent surgery on July 11 and is expected to miss 8-to-12 weeks.
"Bringing in another talented player to help us try kind of try and put things together and figure out how to take our club to another level," Matheny said. "We still believe we have to get to another level."
Pierzynski brushed aside questions about the his reputation as a negative influence in the clubhouse, and Matheny said he told his team to get rid of any preconceived notions.
"People that played with me and know me, know what I’m about and that’s all that really matters," Pierzynski said.
The left-handed hitting Pierzynski played 72 games this year with the Boston Red Sox, hitting .254 with four home runs. He is a career .282 hitter.
"I didn’t want to end with the bad taste I had in my mouth in Boston," Pierzynski said "I didn’t want to end like that. I didn’t want to end the season. I didn’t want to end anything like that."
Pierzynski joined the Cardinals direct from Coopertown, N.Y. and the Baseball Hall of Fame, where he and his family were guests of 2014 inductee and Pierzynski’s former White Sox teammate Frank Thomas.
Catcher George Kottaras was designated for assignment to make room on the St. Louis roster.