Gabe Kapler: A.J. Pierzynski ‘Sweetheart Of A Guy’ Despite Reputation

A.J. PierzynskiA.J. Pierzynski’s reputation as a bad guy has heightened over the last couple of days, yet some, including Gabe Kapler, have seen a different side of the former Boston Red Sox catcher.

Pierzynski was designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Wednesday, and reports have since surfaced suggesting the veteran backstop had issues with teammates. Kapler, a former Red Sox outfielder and current FOX Sports 1 analyst who played winter ball with Pierzynski in the late 1990s, shared a more positive outlook Thursday during an appearance on WEEI,

“I got to know (Pierzynski) well, and he’s a harmless individual,” Kapler said. “Big heart, sweetheart of a guy. Has the propensity to rub some folks the wrong way if things aren’t going well for him. And I think that’s the most important thing to look at here. He’s having his worst season ever offensively.”

Pierzynski hit .254 with four homers, 31 RBIs and a .286 on-base percentage in 72 games with the Red Sox. Red Sox manager John Farrell and general manager Ben Cherington both stressed the transaction was made because Pierzynski underperformed offensively and the club wanted to get a look at catching prospect Christian Vazquez at the major league level.

However, Pierzynski’s reputation is well-documented and again has come to the forefront in the wake of his departure.

“We all have to be careful not to kick a guy on his way out, right? I think that is the common thread. It’s the easiest thing to do,” Kapler said. “While I think there was certainly an element of clubhouse chemistry and his ability to connect with his teammates, I think the bottom line here is that he just didn’t perform. And that’s what Boston Red Sox front office members want to see — does a guy come in and perform? At some point you have to say, look, we don’t see this getting better.”

Cherington said Wednesday that personality issues weren’t to blame for Pierzynski’s exit, noting the 37-year-old was everything the Red Sox expected him to be from an off-the-field standpoint when they signed him to a one-year deal last offseason. The Red Sox have had a difficult season, however, and the team would like to invest more into its young players moving forward in 2014.

“The other part of this equation — and it’s irresponsible not to illuminate it — is that the Red Sox want to see Vazquez: plus defender, a guy who can shut down a running game,” Kapler said. “Farrell’s a big fan. Actually, all of baseball is a big fan. And they want to see what this guy can do behind the plate, stopping the running game.”

Vazquez made his major league debut following Wednesday’s roster move. He’ll continue to split time with backup catcher David Ross.

Click here for Kapler’s full interview >>

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