08/14/12 8:07 PM ET
Relaxed Pierzynski showing more offensive pop
By Chris Toman / MLB.com
Entering play Tuesday, Pierzynski had already set a career high with 23 homers, and is on pace to eclipse his previous bests in RBIs, slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging (OPS).
The backstop leads all Major League catchers in home runs and is the leader among American League backstop in RBIs (67), slugging (.556) and OPS (.905). His 3.4 offensive WAR (wins above replacement), per baseball-reference.com, trails only the Twins' Joe Mauer in the AL and is his highest mark since 2003.
Although Pierzynski didn't flash much power in 2011 -- hitting just eight homers and driving in 48 runs -- he believes he made some key changes that started last season.
He made what he described as minor adjustments to his approach that carried over into 2012 and is also feeling more loose when he steps into the batter's box.
"Not trying too hard, not putting too much pressure on myself," Pierzynski said. "Just going out there and trying to enjoy the game and it has been good because we have a good bunch of guys on this team that allow that to happen."
The season he's having has not surprised manager Robin Ventura, either.
"It's a testament to his workout and how he takes care of himself," Ventura said.
Ventura loads speed at top of lineup
TORONTO -- With cleanup hitter Paul Konerko on the seven-day disabled list while recovering from a concussion, White Sox manager Robin Ventura chose to make some changes to his lineup for Tuesday's contest against the Blue Jays.
Ventura stacked the top of his lineup with speed in an effort to manufacture more runs. Alejandro De Aza remained the leadoff hitter but was followed by Dewayne Wise and Alex Rios.
Rios has primarily hit fifth, where Kevin Youkilis was slotted Tuesday. Youkilis has been hitting out of the two-hole since the White Sox acquired him.
Ventura likes the idea of having Adam Dunn, Youkilis and A.J. Pierzynski, three of the club's bigger run producers, hitting behind Rios, who began the day second on the team with a .314 average.
"We will probably go back to what people are used to when Paul gets back," Ventura said.
Ventura feels his club has become too dependent on the long ball and hopes that a switch will help generate some extra runs. Chicago entered Tuesday's action third in the Majors with 146 home runs, trailing only the Yankees (178) and Blue Jays (156).
The White Sox have scored two runs or fewer in three of their past six games, and the only runs they got in Monday's 3-2 loss was off a pair of solo homers by Dunn.
"It's a reflection of [Konerko] being out but it is also ... you have to find a new identity without him being in there, I think that's more of what it is" Ventura said. "You can't just plug somebody else into his spot and expect that it is going to be the same, because it is not.
"So you have to find a different way to do it."
Ventura said he didn't relay his decision to switch up the order to any of his players and that none of them came to speak with him about the changes, either. He was pleased about that.
"They just play. They realize it doesn't matter where you hit," he said.
Each piece of rotation offers unique challenge
TORONTO -- With five guys in the rotation that have the ability to dominate a given game, A.J. Pierzynski is having a lot of fun behind the plate these days.
The White Sox staff, which features Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Gavin Floyd, Francisco Liriano and Jose Quintana, is one of the biggest strengths of the club.
Peavy, after battling injuries over the past couple seasons, was a little bit of a question mark heading into 2012, but Pierzynski said all the right-hander needed to do was get fully healthy.
Pierzynski has caught Peavy since the White Sox acquired him from the Padres in 2009 and said his stuff has never looked better.
"Not only is his stuff better but he just believes that it is going to have better results because he is healthy for the first time since he has been here," Pierzynski said. "He expects to be good and now that he is healthy, he is doing it again."
Sale, meanwhile, in his first crack as a starter at the big league level, has morphed into one of the premier pitchers in the game.
The lanky left-hander, who has three pitches he can consistently throw for strikes in his changeup, fastball and slider, has thoroughly impressed Pierzynski. But that doesn't mean he's surprised with what Sale's been able to do on the mound.
"That makes it tough, especially with a guy that is left-handed with a funky arm angle and funky motion," Pierzynski said about Sale's ability to pound the zone.
Pierzynski said the club always had faith that Sale could make the transition from the bullpen because of his success as a starter in college.
"We always knew that he was going to be tough if he was given the opportunity to start. The results have been amazing," Pierzynski said.
He also welcomes the addition of Liriano, someone he did not enjoy facing when the lefty was a member of the Twins.
"It is nice to have him and not face him, especially as a left-handed hitter trying to hit his slider," Pierzynski said. "He is one of those that can be as good as anybody. It's nice to have him on our team, just because of what kind of guy he is and so we don't have to face him."
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.