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With fresh legs, Pierre hopes to keep Sox on the move
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: 3/15/2010 12:03 PM

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If he finds himself lacking motivation this spring - and that rarely is an issue - Juan Pierre can simply take a few steps outside of the White Sox' clubhouse and look over at the other side of Camelback Ranch.

That's where his old team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are preparing for the upcoming season. It's the same team that Pierre rode the bench with for much of the past two seasons.

"Just didn't work out," Pierre said of his Dodger days. "I put up good numbers for eight years and it landed me on the bench. The way I look at it, I saved my legs the last two years and I'm ready to go."

Two years ago, Joe Torre took over in Los Angeles and Pierre quickly fell out of favor as the new manager opted to play veterans Andruw Jones and Manny Ramirez and youngsters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

But when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games last year for using performance enhancing drugs, Pierre stepped in and batted .308 while stealing 30 bases in just 76 starts.

Why was he traded? Ramirez is back in left field for the Dodgers and Kemp and Ethier are set in center and right. That made Pierre expendable, and as a reward for being a good solider and not complaining, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti traded the 32-year-old left fielder to a team that needed him. Colletti also agreed to pay $10.5 million of the $18.5 million Pierre has remaining in his contract the next two years.

Can he still play? As he said, Pierre got plenty of rest the past two seasons and the White Sox are confident he'll be the same player that has piled up 200 or more hits in a season four times and 40 or more stolen bases eight times.

Oh yeah, Pierre played in every (162) regular season game from 2003-07 when he was with the Marlins, Cubs and Dodgers.

"One thing about Juan, health has never been an issue for him," Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "He's always been out there. Having him out there, having that threat every day definitely puts pressure on the other team. I know as a catcher, when you're playing against a guy like that, it puts pressure on you, the pitching staff and everybody."

What are Pierre's strengths? In addition to his ability to put the ball in play, run the bases and stay healthy, Pierre leads all active players with 165 bunt hits. The left-handed leadoff man also has a great eye, striking out just once per 18.00 plate appearances which also tops all active players.

What are Pierre's weaknesses? He has never walked much, and that's unusual for a leadoff hitter. That pattern continued last year when Pierre drew just 27 free passes in 380 at-bats.

"I hear that all the time," Pierre said. "But my game is putting the ball in play. It's not like I'm going up there trying to get my walks."

As a fielder, Pierre is decidedly below average.

"You're not going to like the way he throws," general manager Kenny Williams told fans at SoxFest in late January. "But you're going to like the way he tracks the ball down."

Who plays when Pierre gets a rest? He wants to be in the lineup every day, but Pierre is likely to take a seat against tough left-handed starting pitchers.

When he does get a day off, Andruw Jones is the likely starter in left field.

How devastating is Jared Mitchell's injury? The White Sox' top prospect is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday after tearing a tendon in his left ankle in a Cactus League game against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.

This was going to be an important year in Mitchell's development, and now it looks like he could miss the entire season.

Mitchell was expected to push for a spot on the 25-man roster next spring, but his ETA is up in the air for now.

AL's best

Where we rank the top left fielders:

1. Adam Lind, Blue Jays

2. Juan Rivera, Angels

3. Nelson Cruz, Rangers

7. JUAN PIERRE, WHITE SOX