Pierzynski caught again in on-field controversy


He's like the middle-school kid with the bad-boy reputation.

Even when he's innocent, Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is a magnet for on-field controversy. And he's getting sick of it.

In the 2005 American League Championship Series, he was the recipient of the infamous Josh Paul rollback, a non-catcher's interference call and a phantom tag as the White Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels.

Again last week he was the subject of unwanted attention against the cross-town rival Cubs, when he was embroiled in two more controversies simply for scoring a run, hitting a homer and, well, being A.J. Pierzynski.

ESPN may have broken its "Steve Bartman replay record" by repeatedly showing Cubs catcher Michael Barrett sucker-punching Pierzynski after a home plate collision May 20.

The play was clean, but Barrett was miffed because he didn't have the ball at the point of collision. And after Pierzynski slapped the plate in excitement and then walked toward Barrett - only to retrieve his helmet, he swears - Barrett snapped. He grabbed Pierzynski in a bear hug and then popped him in the jaw.

"I've been thrown at many times, but I've never been swung at before," Pierzynski said. "Usually, I'm not the one in the middle of too many fights."

Barrett was suspended 10 games and fined; Pierzynski was fined.

The next day, Pierzynski homered against Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano and made a wide slap of his hands as he rounded second base. Zambrano lost it.

Zambrano claims Pierzynski said something to him during the home run trot, so he charged toward third base and screamed at Pierzynski and third base coach Alex Cora.

At one point, Zambrano pointed to his head, indicating that he might throw at Pierzynski, but he never did.

"I have a wife and kid now," Pierzynski told the Chicago media. "I have to deal with how it affects them. It's just wearing on me, and I'm tired of it."

Mighty Blake

Cleveland right fielder Casey Blake has led the league in hitting for most of this month. That's a pretty stark departure from this time last season.

Blake, 32, batted .354 (56-for-158) with nine homers and 34 RBIs in his team's first 46 games in 2006. Last year, he hit .217 (34-for-157) with six homers and just 16 RBIs through the same period.

The soft-spoken Blake has no answer for his hot start.

"I'd rather be lucky than good," Blake said.

Faith in Morales

How much faith do the Angels have in Cuban defector Kendry Morales? He made his major league debut Tuesday as the team's No. 5 hitter. The 22-year-old first baseman had three hits, including a home run, against the Texas Rangers.

"Nowhere in my mind did I think I'd get three hits - it's something I'll never forget," Morales said through an interpreter. "And the home run, there's no way to describe it."

Quick hits

Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been ejected four times in 46 games, putting him on pace for an Earl Weaver-like 14 this year. ... The Angels' 17-28 start was their worst since 1988. ... Kansas City's Justin Huber, who switched from catcher to first, is playing some outfield in the minors.

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