Minnesota Twins Opening Day Countdown: 9, A.J. Pierzynski

SEATTLE - JULY 7: Manager Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins walks to the mound to meet with catcher A.J. Pierzynski
SEATTLE - JULY 7: Manager Ron Gardenhire of the Minnesota Twins walks to the mound to meet with catcher A.J. Pierzynski /

The Minnesota Twins are just 9 days away from Opening Day in Baltimore. As we near that day, here is more Twins history related to that number.

The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectation after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card team. We will highlight numbers from team history that represent the number of days until Opening Day on March 29th in Baltimore.

It is here, single digits! It is almost time to cheer on the Twins and root against the opponent. Today’s player Twins fans spent many years cheering on. Then when he made is way onto the roster of an American League Central rival and received plenty of boos. Today we look back at number 9 (at least early on until switching to 26), A.J. Pierzynski.

Pierzynski with the Twins

The Twins drafted Pierzynski in the 3rd round of the 1994 draft out of Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, FL. Pierzynski made his major league debut on September 9, 1998, but didn’t earn regular playing time with the Twins until 2001.

That team in 2001 was the last Tom Kelly managed Twins team, and he played the emerging Pierzynski as his catcher that season. A.J. went on to hit .289/.322/.441 while adding 7 home runs and 33 doubles to his stat line. That was just the start to all that the catcher from Florida would accomplish in his career.

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In 2002, Pierzynski would help the Twins surge into first place. He would contribute .300/.334/.439, 6 home runs, and 31 doubles. Those numbers resulted in Pierzynski’s inclusion on the American League All-Star Roster. He would follow-up his All-Star season with his best batting average and highest amount of doubles in a season. His overall numbers were .312/.360/.464, 11 home runs, and 35 doubles.

Leaving Minnesota

Pierzynski was showing the makings of a franchise cornerstone catcher. The Twins began to experience a logjam at the catcher position as some young Minnesota kid was making his way through the minor leagues. Of course, that was 2001 number one overall selection, Joe Mauer. Mauer’s emergence allowed the Twins to orchestrate an organizational tone setting trade.

On November 14, 2003 the Twins and San Fransisco Giants agreed to a trade that brought back to Minnesota Boof Bonser, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Nathan. All three of those players had a significant impact on the Twins success through the rest of the 2000’s. Liriano almost made that trade as absolute steal depending on what may have happened hadn’t he struggled with injury down the stretch in 2006.

Next: A look at Twins Outfield prospect LaMonte Wade

What Pierzynski may be best remembered for is coming to town as a member of the Chicago White Sox after signing with them prior to the 2005 season. Plenty of hate, boos, and likely unmentionable sayings were flung his direction. As much as we as Twins fans grew to hate Pierzynski, today we remember the great years he had with the Twins. Only 9 days until we experience real baseball games again!