PHILADELPHIA -- As A.J. Pierzynski has attempted to duplicate last season's success, he has provided the kind of production one might expect from a 39-year-old veteran who has served as a catcher in nearly 2,000 Major League games.
Still, Pierzynski's youthful exuberance was on display when he poked some fun at himself after catching a popup to end Friday night's 7-1 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Upon securing the ball in his catcher's mitt, he immediately looked toward his Braves' teammates with a playful look of astonishment and leapt in celebratory fashion.
"These guys have been wearing me out about catching popups since I missed those couple a couple weeks ago [during a two-game series in Boston]," Pierzynski said. "It wasn't meant to be disrespectful or anything. It was just one of those moments where I was like "Whew!"
Pierzynski was considered by some to be the Braves' MVP when he produced a .769 OPS and served as the starting catcher in 104 games last year. But as he has produced a .511 OPS through his first 97 plate appearances and struggled defensively behind the plate this year, he has provided reason to wonder if he's dealing with the lingering effects of the heavy workload he incurred at 38-years-old last season.
"You've got to try to keep this game fun," Pierzynski said. "It's hard. This game humbles you so many times over the course of your career. So, whenever you get the opportunity to have some fun, smile and make the other guys on the team happy, that's kind of what it's all about."
First baseman Freddie Freeman was among the Braves who got a chuckle from Pierzynski's reaction to catching Andres Blanco's game-ending popup on Friday night. "I don't think I've ever seen a 39-year-old man jump that high," Freeman said.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.