Column: A.J. helping out wherever he can

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Jeff Budlong, On the rebound

What a weekend for A.J. Pierzynski.

The former Twins catcher, who had a cup of coffee with San Francisco before being traded to the White Sox, had an interesting series against the Cubs this weekend.

Pierzynski was trying to score on a ball hit from the outfield and as he approached home plate he barreled over Cubs’ catcher Michael Barrett who did not have the baseball, but was blocking the plate.

The runner-catcher collision at home plate is one of the most violent looking plays in all of sports, but it is generally accepted as part of the game. It is not always liked &045;&160;see Pete Rose’s all-star game crash that effectively ended one catcher’s career &045;&160;but it is done time and time again.

Barrett, for whatever reason, decided he didn’t like A.J.’s hit or subsequent slap of the plate so he stood up, bear hugged him and then threw a punch that connected with Pierzynski’s face. A bench clearing skirmish followed and fines and suspensions are sure to come.

This is just latest in a series of physical events for a sport that is supposed to be ridding itself of roid rage reactions.

– Delmon Young threw &045; not tossed &045; his bat at a minor league umpire after disagreeing with a called third strike.

– Fans have gotten into the act throwing syringes and other items at Barry Bonds to let their displeasure be known.

– Pitchers and managers continue to be suspended and fined for throwing at batters including Bonds.

Pierzynski did get some revenge for the punch with a home run of his own later in the game, but he had little control over his role in another big weekend happening.

Francisco Liriano looked good for the Twins in his first start of the season. The young fireballer looks to be well on his way to fulfilling many of the high expectations that have been placed on him.

Boof Bonser also pitched well in his big league debut. He did not pick up the win but he did manage to go deep into the game and gave the Twins a chance at a victory.

Joe Nathan is a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities this season and has turned into one of the most reliable ninth-inning men in the big leagues.

All three of these pitchers were obtained in a brilliant move by Twins’ GM Terry Ryan when he sent Pierzynski &045; then an all-star catcher &045; to the Giants.

The young guns looked good for the Twins this weekend and fans can only hope that continues. To A.J. I say thanks because whether it was taking a punch or providing it for the Twins starting rotation it was a big weekend for him.