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New Boston backstop A.J. Pierzynski is getting to know the weapons
available to him through his new Red Sox pitchers this spring
training in Fort Myers (Michael Ivins/Getty Images)

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

BoSox backstop A.J. Pierzynski is putting in some quality innings this spring training getting to know the nuances of his new team’s pitching staff.

Pierzynski, 37, was picked up as a free agent in the offseason and signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox after the team declined to offer a long-term contract extension to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who ultimately went to the Marlins.

And while Pierzynski is well-acquainted already with the current roster of Red Sox players from his time behind the plate in Minnesota, Chicago and Texas and as a part-time postseason analyst for Fox, it can present a bit of a learning curve figuring out the full arsenal of weapons available to him through the Boston starting rotation, relief corps and closer.

He’ll have holdover David Ross to help him learn the ropes, and both veteran backstops will play key roles in helping to nurture Boston’s up-and-coming talent behind the plate in the form of Christian Vazquez, Dan Butler and Blake Swihart — all of whom could help form the Sox catching tandem of the future.

“I’ve faced all these guys a lot,” Pierzynski told MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I’ve faced (John) Lackey like a hundred times. I think I know what John Lackey throws. I’ve had (Jake) Peavy (with the White Sox)… I’ve faced (Jon) Lester a bunch. That helps, but as an opposing player, you know kind of what they’re looking for and what they kind of threw.

“Being on the same team is different than competing against them. You have different scouting reports and different strengths and kind of learn what they like to do and how they like to carry themselves on the mound. It’s a nonstop learning process as a catcher.”

On Monday, Pierzynski rolled his left ankle for the second time in Grapefruit League action, but the injury shouldn’t prove an issue nor give the Nation too much cause for concern. If there’s one thing that Pierzynski has proven in his 16 years in the majors — aside from the fact that is name is just as problematic as “Saltalamacchia” for Redsoxlife.com beat writers to consistently spell correctly — it is his durability.

Since 2002, Pierzynski has played at least 128 games per season (his career high was 140, in 2006) and has made at least 500 plate appearances a season every year since 2005.

Last year as a catcher and occasional DH for the Texas Rangers, Pierzynski played in 134 games and hit .272 with 24 doubles, 17 homers and 70 RBI, while posting a fielding percentage of .998 and allowing 49 stolen bases while catching 24 runners. Conversely, in 2013, Jarrod Saltalamacchia allowed 89 stolen bags while catching the same number of runners as Pierzynski.

Keep the Faith. Drink the Dirty Water. Connect with me on Twitter: @jan_doh.

Jan-Christian Sorensen 3/05/2014 02:38:00 PM Edit
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