12/03/10 8:21 PM EST
Pierzynski, Dunn thrilled to team up in Chicago
Re-signed catcher excited to be back in fold with new slugger
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
By A.J. Pierzynski's estimation, that basic act was all that separated him from moving on to another team on Thursday afternoon. In fact, Pierzynski had called his mother to inform her he was changing work locales.
"I really, really thought it was over," said Pierzynski of his six years spent with the White Sox. "It was bittersweet and sort of hard to believe, especially with all I had been through with the fans and the organization and the team."
Pierzynski made one last call to the White Sox, and White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn called back immediately with an offer. Within 15 minutes, Pierzynski was back in Chicago via a two-year, $8-million deal.
This signing completed a literally perfect Thursday for White Sox general manager Ken Williams, who also locked up Adam Dunn to a four-year, $56-million deal. That excitement carried over to Friday, when Dunn was officially introduced during a press conference at U.S. Cellular Field, and Pierzynski talked about his return on a conference call from his Florida home.
Adding the left-handed hitting Dunn and Pierzynski gives the White Sox much needed balance in their previously right-handed hitting heavy lineup. The team originally had interest in Victor Martinez, but never made an offer as the catcher/first baseman/designated hitter moved on to the Tigers with a four-year, $50-million deal.
One last call took place with the Brewers concerning thoughts on first baseman Prince Fielder and trade possibilities, but those talks never progressed. Dunn remained continuously at the forefront of the White Sox thoughts, dating back to the 2010 non-waiver trade deadline, when Williams did all he could to pry loose the slugger from the Nationals as documented on the MLB Network show called The Club.
Dunn placed the White Sox at the top of his desired locations, and the interest started to truly manifest itself when he talked on the phone to Williams about two weeks ago.
"You don't meet a lot of guys like Kenny Williams who are straight shooters," Dunn said. "I can't fault a guy for being honest and truthful and speaking his mind. I love that.
"As soon as I found out the White Sox were interested, I said that's the team I wanted. It just sort of happened, and I'm so fortunate and thankful it did."
Some doubts existed as to whether Dunn would leave the National League because of his desire to play first base. In the world of manager Ozzie Guillen, Dunn will see action in the field at both first and left field, while also anchoring the designated hitter slot.
That job description won't change even if Paul Konerko returns. Dunn succinctly summed up his feelings Friday on basically playing wherever Guillen wants him.
"I don't care," Dunn said. "I'm to the point where I'm on a team that has a chance to win a World Series, and I'm ready to do whatever they want me to do, however often.
"Actually, I told Kenny I'll catch, but A.J. signed I see. I'm ok to do anything."
Before the free agent joined the White Sox, Dunn talked to former teammates Ken Griffey, Jr. and Willie Harris as to how U.S. Cellular Field plays. He received rave reviews for a one of the better hitting ballparks in baseball, and Dunn didn't seem the least bit worried about having to hit in the cold of April and May when the ball doesn't carry as well.
The White Sox catching tandem remains intact, with the team having picked up a $1.2 million option on Ramon Castro earlier in the offseason. Look for Pierzynski to get the bulk of the work behind the plate, as a durable veteran who simply doesn't like days off.
Adding Dunn's 40-home run power, not to mention a .381 on-base percentage, as well as Pierzynski's strong familiarity with one of the American League's top starting rotations, stand as huge bonuses for the White Sox. Adding the character and leadership they both bring to the clubhouse boosts these signings to another level.
Of course, Pierzynski would like to see Konerko join himself and Mark Buehrle as the lone remaining members from the 2005 World Series championship on the 2011 squad. Pierzynski began his push for Konerko's return when he spoke to the U.S. Cellular Field crowd after the last game of the 2010 regular season and continued that push during Friday's conference call.
"He deserves to finish his career here," said Pierzynski of Konerko. "He's done tremendous things in the community, and it really would be unbelievable to take the field with the White Sox and not have Konerko on the field with me. I'll do whatever I have to do to get him back here."
A Konerko return would complete one of the most upbeat offseasons in recent memory for the White Sox fan base. It's a pretty uplifting time for Dunn and Pierzynski, as well.
"I'm ecstatic to be back," said Pierzynski, before expressing his previous doubts regarding a seventh in eighth season in Chicago, dating back to the last game of the past year. "But in my heart of hearts, I didn't think it would work out. It's a huge relief."