A.J. Pierzynski is participating in the 2011 American League Championship Series, but not in the way he originally intended back in March.
The veteran White Sox catcher made his debut with FOX on Saturday night's broadcast as part of pregame and postgame coverage for the Rangers-Tigers series. And with Pierzynski's colorful reputation, his introduction from host Chris Rose almost was predictable.
Seated between Rose and fellow analyst Eric Karros, Pierzynski's two All-Star appearances were mentioned along with his contributions to the 2005 World Series championship for the South Siders. The guest analyst for the ALCS and the World Series on FOX also was described as one of the most competitive and intense players in the game, as video ran of Pierzynski scoring a run by crashing into one-time Cubs catcher Michael Barrett during a 2006 game, and then taking a punch from Barrett at home plate.
There was video shown of the famous dropped third strike involving Pierzynski's swing against the Angels' Kelvim Escobar and astute dash to first during the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS. The eventual winning run scored on a Joe Crede double after Pierzynski's smarts were held up by the umpires.
"Don't ever say you can't steal first," said a smiling Pierzynski. "I have the Sox ring to prove it right here that you can steal first.
"You got to show the bad stuff," Pierzynski added. "You gotta show me striking out or getting hit in the face. Can we show a home run or base hit or something good?"
Eventually, video was shown of Pierzynski going deep twice off of Justin Verlander, Detroit's Game 1 starter and quite possibly the AL's most dominant player in 2011. And as has been the case for most of Pierzynski's stellar career, the controversy didn't take away from the baseball production and knowledge.
Pierzynski referred to the Tigers and Rangers as the best two teams the White Sox faced. He spoke in support of Ryan Raburn as an injury replacement for Delmon Young, and Raburn went out and reached base three times in the Tigers' 3-2 loss. Pierzynski listed the Rangers' bullpen as its strong suit, especially with Alexi Ogando working in relief and Neftali Feliz's 100 mph fastball at the end.
Ogando worked two hitless innings in relief to earn the victory. Feliz was utterly unhittable in striking out the side in the ninth.
"That's the gameplan," said Pierzynski of the Rangers on the pregame show. "Get their starters through five or six innings, and get it to the bullpen if they score any sort of runs."
Although Pierzynski certainly had a hand in broadcasting during his seven years with the White Sox, the straightforward and entertaining quote was admittedly excited to get the call from FOX.
"It's something I've always enjoyed doing. It's something I've always had fun with, which is the biggest thing," Pierzynski told MLB.com before his broadcast run began. "FOX approached me with this during the season, and with my family on board, I couldn't say no to it.
"They are the big dog. Having them come to me, saying they watched what I had done, liked the way I handled it and thought I would be good, it definitely is exciting."
A broadcasting career definitely would be of interest to Pierzynski once his playing career is complete. Pierzynski has one more year at $6 million left on his two-year extension with the White Sox.
Of course, Pierzynski could go the pro wrestling route, where he worked for TNA's operation during two offseasons as both a fan favorite and a heel.
"Broadcasting is a little easier on the body than wrestling," Pierzynski said. "I've loved doing it.
"I've only been to one World Series, the one I played in. And watching from the outside, it will be fun to watch games and not have a stake in it and be no-political and dissect what happens. Hopefully they'll let me do some interviews, and I can put a fun spin on it."
Fun seem to be the watchword Saturday for Pierzynski, who was introduced by Rose as a player who has "caught more innings and punches than any other catcher since 2003." Rose also brought up the White Sox 5-13 showing against the Tigers during the past season.
"You love taking any shot you can at me. It's amazing," said Pierzynski with a laugh. "If I would have called better pitches, we might be out there right now."
As for a final prediction, Pierzynski went with the Tigers in six. You can put the AL Central catcher in the broadcast booth, but you can't take the AL Central out of the catcher.