The 11 a.m. call from manager John Farrell asking A.J. Pierzynski to come to Fenway Park let Pierzynski know what was ahead.
“You figure this isn’t the normal daily schedule,” Farrell said.
The word was coming that the Red Sox were parting ways with him. The call ensured that even though the move was sudden, it wouldn’t be a surprise.
When the Red Sox signed Pierzynski to a one-year, $8.25 million contract in December, they envisioned the veteran as someone who had managed successful staffs and also lifted offenses as a lefthanded presence in the middle of the order. They also saw him as a bridge as they developed their young catching talent in the minors after letting Jarrod Saltalamacchia walk in free agency.
But things never panned out that way. Beyond hitting a career-low .254 in 72 games, Pierzynski went 33 games from May 24 without a home run and drove in just one run his past 15 games. With the team in last place in the AL East, 10½ games behind the first-place Orioles, the Sox designated Pierzynski for assignment before Wednesday night’s game vs. the White Sox and called up 23-year-old catcher Christian Vasquez from Pawtucket.
About Pierzynski, Farrell said, “We thought we needed a lefthanded-hitting catcher. We felt that the need to bring a guy in on a short-term deal fit because of the guys coming through the system, someone who has led successful pitching staffs in the past, a number of the boxes checked off when we had to replace Salty. And based on the performance of us as a team, we’re not closing the book on 2014, but at the same time, we’re investing in those beyond this year.
“It’s important to note that where we are today is not pinning this on A.J. by any means. We felt like there was a player ready to step in that we wanted to get valuable time this year as we move forward and that’s Christian and that’s where the decision started today.”
The decision to rid themselves of Pierzynski and bring up Vasquez, a prospect regarded highly for his defensive gifts, certainly could be considered as a move toward the future and as resignation about the way this season’s gone.
But Farrell didn’t want to give the impression the team was tying a bow on the season.
“It’s an opportunity for us to invest in players we feel are going to be here beyond 2014,” Farrell said. “And while there may be other decisions that are forthcoming, I felt like the place we were going to start with was behind the plate and that brings Christian to us, a guy who we are high on his abilities, particularly as a defender and the ability to shut down the running game and someone who continues to develop as an offensive player.”
Boston was the fifth stop in 17 seasons for Pierzynski, who had a reputation for having an abrasive personality. The chemistry in the clubhouse and on the field became a question, which led Pierzynski to become defensive at times.
General manager Ben Cherington said the team knew what it was getting in Pierzynski and the only thing that was surprising was his lack of production.
“Nothing else happened with A.J. that we were surprised by,” Cherington said.