Pierzynski builds case for All-Star nod

Pierzynski builds good case for All-Star nod

CHICAGO -- It was a move that almost didn't happen during the past offseason, but it's hard to imagine where the White Sox would be without catcher A.J. Pierzynski.

Ken Williams first balked at signing the free agent catcher, when Pierzynski's name started hitting full force as part of the Hot Stove rumor mill. But after doing extensive research on the former Twins and Giants backstop, the White Sox general manager brought him aboard.

Now, a strong case could be made for Pierzynski's inclusion on the American League All-Star team. The left-handed hitter ranks second at his position to Boston's Jason Varitek in home runs (12 to 11) and is tied for second in RBIs behind the Yankees' Jorge Posada (37 to 31). He also has anchored the best pitching staff in all of baseball for most of the 2005 campaign.

"He calls a good game, and he calls the right pitch at the right moment," said White Sox pitcher Freddy Garcia. "He has done a great job for us."

Pierzynski's efforts have not gone unappreciated in the fan voting, as he moved into fifth place amongst catchers last week, and held steady this week with 320,317 total votes, according to numbers released on Monday. White Sox fans still can vote for Pierzynski online until 11 p.m. CT on June 30.

The 2005 American League and National League All-Star Teams will be unveiled on the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show presented by Chevrolet, which will air live on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 3. This special program will feature the announcement of the 17 elected starters, as determined by the fan balloting program, and 45 pitchers and reserves, as determined by the player ballot and the two All-Star Team managers -- Terry Francona of the Boston Red Sox and Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals -- and Major League Baseball.

Immediately following the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Selection Show, fans will have the opportunity to select the final position player for each league's 32-man roster at MLB.com. The Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Final Vote will provide fans the opportunity to cast their votes from a list of five players from each league over a three-day period.

There will be two ways for fans to vote for the 2005 All-Star Final Vote - online at MLB.com or on the go from cell phones. Fans can simply text the word "VOTE" to 69652 (MYMLB) and be instantly registered to receive Final Vote ballots. Then, for just 99 cents a ballot, they'll have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Fans can pre-register for the mobile ballot now.

The Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Final Vote will conclude on Wednesday, July 6 at 8 p.m. ET. The two winners will be announced on ESPN and MLB.com shortly thereafter.

Paul Konerko continued to be the highest vote-getter among the first-place White Sox, ranking fourth at first base. Texas' Mark Teixeira taking the lead in the voting at this particular position -- meaning that the Yankees' Tino Martinez would not be selected -- could help Konerko.

Tadahito Iguchi held strong in fifth place at second base, while Scott Podsednik remains 10th in the outfield. The surest bets for the White Sox are starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland, not to mention closer Dustin Hermanson. But both Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen wouldn't be heartbroken if a stipulation was added for nobody from the White Sox to make the team, keeping in mind the team's ultimate goal of a World Series title.

"I don't want them overusing our pitchers," Guillen said. "But I have no problem with them pitching one inning and getting out. Actually, Buehrle could pitch 20 innings and probably come back a couple of days later and work five more."

"They should go home and get some rest," added a slightly sarcastic Williams. "They should rest up for the second half to win this thing."

Concluding the All-Star balloting process, fans once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet at the 76th All-Star Game via the Ameriquest 2005 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com. The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.