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Pierre now the one mentoring a young prospect
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Staff

Chicago White Sox's Juan Pierre sprints home during base-running drills at baseball spring training Tuesday.


Associated Press

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Published: 3/4/2010 12:01 AM

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For Juan Pierre, it seems like just yesterday.

When he was breaking into the major leagues with the Colorado Rockies a decade ago, Pierre leaned on veterans like Larry Walker, Ron Gant and Tom Goodwin for guidance.

Now a 32-year-old veteran, Pierre is wearing a White Sox uniform and mentoring Jared Mitchell.

"It happens quick," Pierre said at the Sox' training camp in Glendale, Ariz. "Once you're the young guy in the clubhouse and then you're asked to help other young guys. It happens quick, but I'll give him whatever I can."

Pierre isn't worried about Mitchell taking his outfield job.

Not yet anyway.

Mitchell, the White Sox' first-round pick in last year's draft, has just 34 games of professional baseball under his belt and those came with Kannapolis, a low Class A club.

Mitchell, projected as the Sox' leadoff man of the future, is likely headed to AA Birmingham this year while Pierre is being counted on to replace Scott Podsednik at the top of the order.

Cactus League play begins today when the White Sox play the Angels in Tempe, Ariz., but Pierre has been offering his assistance to Mitchell for the past two weeks.

"I take a lot of stuff from a lot of people, but I love watching Juan play," said Mitchell, who starred in baseball and football at LSU. "He plays the game hard, he plays it well and he's really good at what he does. You can't have anything but respect for him. I'm picking his brain and trying to learn as much as I can from him."

Pierre, acquired in a Dec. 15 trade from the Dodgers, said there is only so much he can teach the Sox' top prospect.

"He's a speed and power guy," Pierre said. "He's a five-tool kind of guy. I think I can help him with two, two and a half. I tell him just to relax and just have fun, that's the most important thing. He's in a situation with Ozzie (manager Guillen) here in the clubhouse where it's going to be fun.

"I've played for some managers that were strict, all that stuff. But with Ozzie, he just lets people go out and play."

While Mitchell has plenty of room for improvement after becoming a full-time baseball player last summer while batting .296 at Kannapolis, Pierre is trying to prove he can still play.

"This guy, everywhere he goes he plays well," Guillen said of Pierre, whom he coached with the Florida Marlins in 2003. "We're going to take advantage of him. We've been looking for a leadoff hitter for a long time. We had Podsednik and he played very well for us. And now Juan can help us.''

Pierre, a career .301 hitter and baseball's active leader in stolen bases (459) and bunt hits (165), is confident he can spark the White Sox' revamped offense.

"I've been sitting on the bench the last two years, so I'm fresh," Pierre said with a laugh. "I put up good numbers for eight years and it landed me on the bench. But I don't feel like I have to prove anything. I saved my legs the last couple of years, so I should be ready to go. I'm excited to get back on the field."

Mitchell is equally excited about putting all of his efforts into his chosen sport after winning national titles in baseball and football at LSU.

"I'm able to concentrate on baseball now, and that makes it a lot easier," said Mitchell, who can play all three outfield spots. "I've got a lot of room for improvement and that's what I'm here for now. I'm looking forward to getting the chance to improve and keep working.

"I've got a great opportunity in front of me and I get to learn from a lot of guys. Just soak everything in."