Hot-hitting Pierzynski earning time over Bethancourt
Veteran catcher hitting over .400 with three homers in his first seven games
NEW YORK -- Though the Braves entered this season with the expectation that Christian Bethancourt would serve as their primary catcher, manager Fredi Gonzalez has opted to frequently put the hot-hitting A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate over the past week.
Coming off Wednesday night's three-hit performance, Pierzynski was behind the plate again for the entirety of Thursday afternoon's 6-3 loss to the Mets. This marked the fifth time in a span of eight games that Bethancourt served as Atlanta's backup catcher.
"We all want Bethancourt to be the guy, but it will be good for him, too, because nothing is given to him," Gonzalez said. "He's got to earn it. Plus you've got a guy [Pierzynski] who has done well and he can do it."
While Bethancourt has recorded just four hits through his first 30 at-bats this season, Pierzynski notched singles in five of his final seven at-bats during this week's series against the Mets. The 38-year-old catcher has batted .407 (11-for-27) with three home runs through his first seven games of the season.
Pierzynski's legs have certainly been put to the test over the past couple days. He scored from second base on Andrelton Simmons' single to shallow center field on Wednesday night. But that dash paled in comparison to the one completed on Thursday, when a rule that he does not favor allowed him to score from first base on Simmons' double off the right-center-field wall in the second inning.
Home-plate umpire Jordan Baker signaled an out as Pierzynski slid through the legs of Mets catcher Anthony Recker. But Gonzalez immediately issued a challenge that proved successful when a replay review showed that Recker had violated the plate-blocking rule that was put in place to protect catchers last year.
"As a runner, I just knew there was nowhere for me to go," Pierzynski said. "I've said from Day 1 that I hate the rule. Two years ago, it would have been a collision. I would have run him over. But as a baserunner, we're not programmed or wired anymore to do that."
Four innings later, Pierzynski's confidence in his legs got him in trouble. After delivering a one-out single in the sixth inning, he mistimed Bartolo Colon's delivery and consequently found himself in no-man's land as soon as he attempted to steal second base. After quickly identifying the attempt by stepping off the rubber, Colon lumbered toward Pierzynski, who briefly attempted to get in a rundown before being tagged out by the Mets pitcher.
"He had got into a rhythm and I was just trying to time him up," Pierzynski said. "That one time, he held it just a little bit longer. If I had gone the pitch before, I probably would have made it, but he held it. Bartolo is a veteran guy who has been around a long time, so he doesn't panic. He just did what he's supposed to do."