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September 03, 2013

Rangers' A.J. Pierzynski reaches catching milestone

A.J. Pierzynski made it clear Tuesday that he doesn’t want to diminish the physical demands of other positions, but he also knows better than any active catcher how difficult it is to catch 100 games year after year.

“It takes a special person to want to get back there,” he said.

Special, in this case, could very well mean crazy. It also means tough, physically and mentally, and once people get past his reputation as one of the most disliked players in the game, Pierzynski will be remembered as one of the most durable catchers of all time.

He started his 100th game Tuesday to become only the fourth catcher in baseball history with 13 consecutive seasons with 100 games caught. He wants to go for No. 14 in 2014.

“Where am I going to play?” said Pierzynski, a free agent after the season. “As far as I’m concerned, I want to play. … It would be nice if it was Texas.”

Pierzynski joined Johnny Bench, Bill Dickey and Brad Ausmus in the exclusive catching fraternity. Ivan Rodriguez has the most 100-game seasons at catcher, with 17, but he was derailed by injury in 1994 and 2000.

Pierzynski said that luck is responsible for much of the streak. He has managed avoid any number of possible injuries behind the plate, though he suffered a broken wrist in 2011 when hit by a pitch and was sidelined earlier this season with a strained oblique.

He has also played for competitive teams who couldn’t afford to give a young prospect a chance, and for managers who wanted him in the lineup.

“I thank my parents all the time. They gave me good genes,” Pierzynski said. “To still be doing it and still be healthy and able to go out there is really something special and a blessing. You can never count on it, especially as a catcher.”

-- Jeff Wilson

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