Rangers add C Pierzynski, say he will be starter

A.J. Pierzynski can joke with Texas manager Ron Washington about

last season’s All-Star snub now that he’s the starting catcher for

the Rangers.

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.