Washington names A.J. Pierzynski as Texas Rangers' top catcher

A.J. Pierzynski likes to catch, likes the Texas heat and likes manager Ron Washington.

That last part came into question after Pierzynski created a stir leading up to last year's All-Star Game, when Washington left him off the American League roster. Washington admitted he felt bad about the snub, something Pierzynski scoffed at.

But that's not an issue anymore; Washington called it "old news." Washington then made new news by saying Pierzynski would be the Rangers' No. 1 catcher going into 2013, with Geovany Soto serving as the backup.

"A.J. is signing on as our guy," Washington said during a conference call to announce the signing. "Geo, he will get some playing time. But A.J. will be the front-runner."

The Rangers and Pierzynski reached a one-year, $7.5 million deal last week and officially announced it Wednesday afternoon.

Pierzynski, who turns 36 Sunday, joins the Rangers after his best season. He had a .278 average with career-highs in home runs (27), slugging percentage (.501), runs (68) and walks (28) and tied his career-high in RBIs (77) in 135 games with the White Sox.

Those numbers are distinctly better than those for Soto, who batted .196 with five home runs and 25 RBIs after the Rangers acquired him from the Cubs at last year's July 31 trade deadline.

Pierzynski also provides a left-handed bat to a lineup that lost Josh Hamilton.

"A.J. is a winning guy," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "There aren't many catchers in the league that go out there and play every day. It's a demanding position... and [that] says something about him, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, to get up and be ready to play each and every game."

The Rangers haven't had a catcher catch at least 100 games since 2007, but Pierzynski has the track record to break that trend. He has caught at least 112 games each of the last 11 seasons, including 121 last year.

Pierzynski isn't worried about his age or the Texas heat slowing him down, either. He said he's been given good genes health-wise by his parents and, as far as the heat, he grew up in Florida playing in the heat and understands the importance of staying hydrated.

"Physically, I feel awesome," Pierzynski said. "Mentally, I'm as good as I've ever been. I approach every year the same. I'd love to catch 162, but it's not going to happen. I'll be ready to play whenever I'm needed."

Pierzynski spent the past eight seasons with the White Sox, starting at catcher on the 2005 World Series championship team, but said it was time for a fresh start.

Pierzynski admitted he might be known by most baseball fans for his outspoken personality, such as the All-Star Game incident, but said there's only one thing Rangers fans should know about him.

"I'll do everything in my power to win," Pierzynski said. "Whatever was said or written, you can't change that. I wish it would go away. All I can do is go out there and do everything I can to win."

Pierzynski is the first impact addition the Rangers have made to their lineup this off-season, and Daniels said the club continues to search for more impact bats, either through free agency or trades.

"We're looking at that now," Daniels said. "There's a decent chance we could add somebody."

Pitchers recovering

Jon Daniels said Colby Lewis (flexor tendon surgery) and Neftali Feliz (Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery) are making good progress in their recoveries. Lewis could be ready to return by May, although the team won't rush him back. Feliz is still on track for a post All-Star break return.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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