Red Sox manager John Farrell sat down with A.J. Pierzynski for a frank discussion after a 9-3 loss against the Yankees on April 22. The veteran catcher, who was signed to a one-year deal in December, was struggling in his transition to the team.
“Had a chance to have a little bit of a sit-down. He kind of just, in some ways, stopped trying to force his way in and just go play, as he’s done for many, many years and been a very good player,” Farrell said on Thursday before the Sox were swept in a doubleheader by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I think it was his own realization of just not trying to be anybody different. Just go about your game as you typically do. Since that point he’s swung the bat well, he’s thrown well, he’s received well. Sometimes coming into a new organization, regardless of your age and experience level, there’s a feeling-out process.
“I think he just kind of gave [in] to it and he’s been off and going.”
Pierzynski is 8 for 23 with two extra-base hits and seven RBIs in the seven games since. He was 1 for 5 with a sacrifice on Thursday.
In the last five games Pierzynski caught, Red Sox starting pitchers have allowed 10 earned runs over 36 innings.
Pierzynski was hitting .235 before the surge and having issues behind the plate, particularly with how he was receiving breaking pitches. Pierzynski was smothering some pitches instead of catching them.
But his comfort with the pitchers, particularly the starters, has improved.
“I don’t know that it was any one thing,” Farrell said. “I think it was more a matter of being in a new place for the first time, more of a feeling-out phase.”
Pierzynski requested the meeting, Farrell said.
“He came in. We had a chance to kind of sit down and talk through a couple of things and give some impressions of what’s being seen,” the manager said. “That was probably the extent that I’d go with it. Of late, it’s been clear that he’s played a little bit more free of mind.”
Team pulls rank
The Rays did not want to play a doubleheader, to a point that acting player representative Ben Zobrist contacted the MLB Players Association to complain.
But a clause in the collective bargaining agreement allowed the Red Sox the leeway to schedule a split doubleheader rather than seek alternatives such as mutual days off later in the season.
On most occasions, a team can only schedule a split doubleheader when ticket sales for the game at the time of the postponement exceed the number of tickets available to be exchanged and both the postponed and regularly scheduled game occur in the last scheduled series at a particular park.
But the Red Sox and Cubs have a long-grandfathered in right to reschedule any postponed game as a split doubleheader even if the usual criteria are not met.
According to Red Sox chief operating officer Sam Kennedy, the clause was the product of Fenway Park and Wrigley Field having the smallest capacities in the majors combined with a high demand for tickets.
“Rainouts, at times, can be tough to find a [makeup] date that’s beneficial to both [teams] if there is such a thing,” Farrell said. “We settled on today.”
The teams have a mutual off day on Sept. 22, the day before the teams start a three-game series at Fenway. But the Red Sox, Farrell said, wanted to preserve that date.
“The one thing that we can’t predict is what the future holds,” he said. “You [have] this date as an off day or a mutual off day late in September. We have a number of teams that come in here one time, so it provides some flexibility if weather hit us for a National League team that comes in here only once.”
The Sox had competitive reasons as well. Their rotation is relatively stable while the Rays are dealing with injuries.
“Yeah, we wanted to just play one game today based on a lot of different factors,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Of course we’d like to move it back based on a lot of things that are going on with us right now. But that didn’t happen. If it didn’t happen, you just go out and play. You don’t cry about it, you don’t make excuses about it.”
The Oakland Athletics, who start a three-game series at Fenway on Friday, had a day off in Boston on Thursday after playing in Texas on Wednesday.
Outfielder Josh Reddick, who played for the Red Sox from 2009-11, took in the day game from a seat behind the plate and picked up a Dustin Pedroia bobblehead doll.
Britton is back
Lefthanded reliever Drake Britton was added to the Red Sox roster for Game 2 but did not play. Under MLB rules, the teams were allowed an extra player for the second game. The Rays added righthander Brad Boxberger and he pitched two scoreless innings . . . Will Middlebrooks had a career-high three walks in the second game . . . Mike Napoli has reached base safely in 24 consecutive games . . . The Sox bullpen has allowed 15 earned runs in its last 18 innings . . . The Game 1 loss for Jake Peavy was his first in eight career starts at Fenway Park . . . The Bentley University women’s basketball team, which won the NCAA Division 2 title with a 35-0 record, was recognized on the field before the game. Team captain Courtney Finn, a graduate student from Winthrop, threw out the first pitch.