CHICAGO -- The offensive numbers for White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski have been Most Valuable Player-caliber through the first 11 games of the 2012 season. His .829 slugging percentage leads the American League, and he's tied with the Yankees' Nick Swisher for the RBI lead at 13. Entering Thursday's contest against the Orioles, Pierzynski was 7-for-11 with two homers and five RBIs in his last three games.
As good as he has been with the bat, though, Pierzynski's value probably is even higher behind the plate. And that strength comes from his handling of a pitching staff featuring three rookies and one young reliever converting to a starter.
"He has been awesome," said Chris Sale, the southpaw making his first foray into the rotation. "He keeps me on my toes on the mound. He keeps me loose, too.
"During my Detroit start [on Sunday], he said, 'You don't have your best stuff but dig deep and find something right here.' In Cleveland, he came out to the mound and said a little something funny. Just keeping me upbeat, not as tense."
Pierzynski doesn't believe his work is any different handling a young staff as opposed to catching a group filled with veterans as he has during his eight-year White Sox tenure. He simply understands that these pitchers have not been in a lot of specific game situations previously so they can't be expected to handle what's transpiring without a little help.
It has been an enjoyable challenge and process for Pierzynski.
"You know, it has been fun actually," Pierzynski said. "It has been fun to see the excitement on their faces and it has been fun to work with them and see them grow.
"I know it's early, but even to go from Spring Training and to where we are at now, to make adjustments with them on the fly, it's always fun and always a challenge. But it's one we knew what we were getting into when we came into this season. We tried to go about it the right way. We've handled it pretty well."