LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — New Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has hit 172 home runs over his 16 seasons in the major leagues. But he’s never had one at Fenway Park.
No fly ball that sneaked over the wall in left. No line drive wrapping around the Pesky Pole. No blast into the bullpen. He has come to the plate at Fenway 121 times since 1999, too.
That Pierzynski bats lefthanded and pulls the ball doesn’t help. But by now something should have cleared the fence.
“It bothers me,” Pierzynski said Tuesday during a visit to the Winter Meetings. “It’s the only [American League] park I haven’t hit one in. I haven’t figured out a way to sneak one around the pole down there in right field.
“I’ve hit a few off the wall in left. But every time I seem to hit one to right, for some reason, they either catch it or it bounces. One of these days I’m going to run into one there and I’m going to have to probably get the ball.”
Pierzynski is a career .322 hitter at Fenway with 12 doubles. He actually likes hitting there.
“It’s always been a good place to hit,” he said. “It always has a good feel as a batter. It always feels like you can reach out and touch left field. It’s a good feeling when you know you can get beat and still get a hit.
“It’s a good park and I’ve always loved playing there because of the energy. There’s always a good energy. It’s one of the special places in baseball.”
Pierzynski, who lives in Orlando, came to the Swan and Dolphin hotel complex to have lunch with White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. He played eight years in Chicago, helping the White Sox win the 2005 World Series, and the two remain close.
Pierzynski didn’t escape without answering a few questions.
“I was trying to go unnoticed. But it didn’t go so well,” he said while standing in front of a semicircle of reporters from Boston.
Pierzynski, who turns 37 on Dec. 30, comes to the Red Sox in the backstretch of his career. But he has caught at least 107 games for nine consecutive seasons and was a productive hitter for Texas last season, posting a .722 OPS and hitting 17 home runs.
The Red Sox believe Pierzynski can stay durable in a tandem with David Ross. The backup catcher, who turns 37 in March, will play regularly.
The Red Sox intended to play Ross 50-60 games last season before a series of concussions limited him to 33 starts. But Ross started seven of the 16 postseason games. Manager John Farrell will use him beyond a traditional platoon.
“We’d expect A.J. to catch the large majority of the games,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “We just didn’t really want to put a number on it. We didn’t want any surprises for a veteran catcher we all respect.”
Pierzynski understands how it will work.
“It was one of the things we talked about before I signed, and we were on the same page,” he said. “There wasn’t a specific number thrown out there. It was just one of those things we talked about and I’m all for it.”
Pierzynski plans to call Ross in January to discuss the pitching staff. Pierzynski also knows pitching coach Juan Nieves well. They worked together in Chicago when Nieves was the bullpen coach there.
“It’s just sitting down with [Nieves] and sitting down with David and sitting down with each pitcher and talking to them,” Pierzynski said. “That’s going to be the biggest adjustment period. Other than that, it’s fitting into a new team. Luckily I know a bunch of these guys already.”
The Red Sox signed Pierzynski to a one-year deal worth $8.25 million, a $750,000 raise from what he received with Texas last season. He turned down longer-term offers, in part, because of what he knew about the Red Sox clubhouse.
The environment the Red Sox created last season and the reputation Farrell built are selling points for a free agent. Pierzynski saw that in person during the postseason when he was working with Fox. On several occasions, he lingered in Farrell’s office and sent signals that he would be open to joining the Sox.
“I saw how it was every day,” he said. “That’s something you want to be a part of. You want to walk into good situations. You don’t want into situations that are miserable.
“You want to walk in where it’s fun and you see guys with smiles on their face.”
Pierzynski is especially eager to play with David Ortiz again. They first played together in 1997 with the Single A Fort Myers Miracle in the Minnesota organization. They were teammates in Triple A and for five seasons in the majors.
“David and I go back when I was 19 or 20 years old and he was the same age,” Pierzynski said. “He’s amazing. I respect the heck out of David. He’s one of my good friends and I love David to death.
“He’s a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person and it’s amazing after all these years I get to play with him again. It was a long time ago when we were teammates and he’s one of the better teammates I’ve ever had.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.