Prepare for the White Sox offense to be a mess again.
New manager Robin Ventura said Saturday that he wants A.J. Pierzynski hitting second after Alejandro De Aza this season.
“He handles the bat great,” Ventura said. “He’s always a tough out. Not that he steals a lot of bases, but he handles the bat and does the appropriate things. He’s one of those guys who will hook it if you have to or put it the other way if they shift on him.”
Despite the fact that he practically never walks, Pierzynski has usually been a pretty good hitter. Even as a 34-year-old last season, he hit .287/.323/.405 in 464 at-bats. It’s also sort of admirable to see Ventura completely dismiss the speed component as a qualification for batting second.
What Ventura is completely overlooking here, though, is Pierzynski’s tendency to ground into double plays. Only eight major leaguers with 3,000 career plate appearances have grounded into double plays at a higher frequency than Pierzynski and most of them have gotten to hit with more men on base. For all of his great “bat handling,” Pierzynski has killed a whole bunch of rallies in his career.
And as it turns out, Ventura thinks Pierzynski hitting second is so important to the White Sox that he’s going to let it dictate who bats third.
“Once you put A.J. second, you don’t want to follow with Paulie (Konerko) and Adam (Dunn),” Ventura said. “Get somebody in there who can outrun them.”
Alex Rios, come on down!
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.