A.J. plays numbers game with 'Hawk'

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
6:49
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – A.J. Pierzynski is now two years removed from his Chicago White Sox days, but the ties remain strong.

Asked Tuesday how he decided on wearing No. 40 this season, his first with the Boston Red Sox, his response was pure Pierzynski.

[+] EnlargeA. J. Pierzynski
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesA. J. Pierzynski's No. 12 was taken, so he took inspiration from friend and White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson.
“What happened was when I came over to the Red Sox, they asked me what jersey number I wanted,” Pierzynski said before the game against the White Sox. “Obviously I was 12 for a long time and I couldn’t have 12 because [Mike] Napoli had 12. If he wouldn’t have [re-signed], I would have taken that. But I was kind of half-joking with [Paul] Konerko, [White Sox director of media relations Bob] Beghtol and a couple of other guys over here, they were like, ‘You can do what your dad did and be his number.’”

Pierzynski’s “dad” in this case would be White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson. The men are not related, of course, but they have longtime ties, and Harrelson has made no secret of his affinity for the way Pierzynski plays.

“I thought, ‘You know that’s not a bad idea,’” Pierzynski said. “So I text Hawk and asked him what number he was and he said 40. So I just went with it.”

Of course Pierzynski won’t be wearing No. 40 on Tuesday night. All players will wear No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day.

With his former No. 12 on his back, Pierzynski played with the White Sox for eight seasons and is well-versed in the organization, but he clearly doesn’t recognize what he sees now. For one, his former team has been an offensive machine in the early going of 2014. For another, the Sox are circling the bases with ease and doing it without much input from Konerko, who is a part-time player in his farewell season.

“It’s strange for me to see Paul not play every day,” Pierzynski said. “That’s the Paul I know and the Paul I played with and that’s the Paul I think most people remember, but to look up and not see him in the lineup, look at the lineup today and no Konerko, it’s still odd to me. You look it up and he has like eight at-bats for the whole season. To see that is just weird for me.”

Pierzynski said Konerko kept him in the loop when the White Sox captain was making his decision whether to return for one more year or retire.

“I told him absolutely he should come back,” Pierzynski said. “He deserves to come back, not only for himself but to enjoy one year. If they aren’t going to give him the opportunity to play, then heck, he can enjoy it a little bit more. It’s a lot more relaxing if he knows he’s not playing every day.

“He doesn’t have to worry about how to get a hit off of guys. He can enjoy the atmosphere. I know he’s a good pinch hitter. He’s always had success in that role. I’m sure they are using him effectively. I know Paul wanted to go out on his terms and, after this year, he’ll be able to do that.”

Never one to just let a compliment stand, Pierzynski is impressed with the White Sox's turnaround but cautioned those who think it’s just going to be this way all season.

“Guys last year weren’t going to have as bad of the year that they did,” Pierzynski said. “Alexei Ramirez is a better player than he was last year. A lot of these guys are going to do better and they also have some younger guys with energy. But let’s not forget we’re only 13 games into the year. I know you’re printing your playoff tickets already, but there’s a long way to go here.”

He had to admit, though, that the team’s turnaround on offense has been dramatic.

“No, they’re playing great,” he said. “Look, we watched video on them and we’re going to have our scouting meeting here in a minute. I know they are swinging the bat well, they are scoring a bunch of runs and they have some energy. I know last year playing against these guys, there wasn’t a lot of energy but they have turned it around and have been off to a good start.”

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Chris Sale
WINS ERA SO IP
10 2.12 158 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAC. Gillaspie .309
HRJ. Abreu 32
RBIJ. Abreu 90
RJ. Abreu 65
OPSJ. Abreu .956
ERAC. Sale 2.12
SOC. Sale 158