A.J., Lopez shrug off home-plate incident

A.J., Lopez shrug off home-plate incident

CHICAGO -- No matter how many times A.J. Pierzynski was asked the question, regardless of how the point was phrased and rephrased, the wily White Sox catcher was not biting.

About an hour before Pierzynski met with the media on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox finished off a 4-2 victory over the Rays. Chris Sale picked up the first save of the season for the South Siders, striking out Elliot Johnson, getting pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez on a groundout to third baseman Brent Morel and retiring Sam Fuld two batters later as the potential tying run on a popout to second baseman Gordon Beckham.

All of this action came after brief ninth-inning fireworks.

Sale started leadoff hitter Felipe Lopez with a fastball inside, a pitch causing Lopez to briefly motion toward the mound and then stare down the rookie southpaw. Lopez launched the next Sale fastball for a 388-foot, no-doubt-about-it home run.

When Lopez connected, he flipped the bat toward Sale on the mound. That move didn't sit well with Pierzynski, who had words with Lopez as he crossed home plate.

But check out the following transcript to see Pierzynski's veteran guile in full force when asked about the disagreement at home plate.

"I take it you and everyone else feel what Lopez did in the ninth was uncalled for to say the least?" asked one television reporter.

"I don't know what you are talking about," Pierzynski said.

"You had some words with him, though?" the reporter continued.

"I just said, 'Hi,'" Pierzynski said. "He lives down the street from me in Orlando, [Fla.], and I was asking how his house was."

"Did you ask if he does any bat tossing in the offseason?" said the reporter with one more attempt.

"I don't know what you are talking about," Pierzynski said. "I don't remember."

Here's an interesting fact: Lopez and Pierzynski really do live near each other in Orlando. There was no need for a quietly amused Pierzynski to expound any further on what had happened, because his job already was done.

As a veteran leader, Pierzynski wasn't about to let Lopez show up Sale. Lopez, on the other hand, went a little deeper into the situation and the overall encounter.

"First of all, I didn't think they were throwing at me," Lopez said. "That's just baseball. They throw inside or high, I get back in the box. That's just something I do. And second, I didn't mean to throw the bat like that. It was unfortunate, but I wasn't trying to do it.

"[Pierzynski] was upset, because he thought I did it on purpose. I told him, 'I didn't mean to do that.' I wasn't mad at anything. The bat slipped. I think if I tried to do that, it wouldn't happen. I spoke to [White Sox manager] Ozzie [Guillen] and I apologized. I called him over and apologized."

Guillen didn't say anything of the apology during his postgame news conference. Guillen admitted it was no big deal and just part of the game.

Sale wasn't affected by the verbal dust-up. He was a little stunned to find a bat near the mound following the home run pitch.

"It was one of those things where I'm not going out there and trying to move his feet or anything. I'm trying to win a ballgame. I have a job to do," Sale said. "It happened. Words were said and that was the end of it. I still had to go out there and get those last three outs. That was my main focus."

That victory message was delivered by Pierzynski during a mound meeting with Sale after Lopez headed back to the dugout. Pierzynski said more to Sale at that moment than he offered up to the media after the game.

Even when asked if his job as a leader was to back up his teammates, Pierzynski said he fully supports his team and finished with a smile. With Guillen playing down the situation, Lopez probably won't face any retribution from the White Sox on Sunday.

You can count Sale as one player who appreciated Pierzynski's actions on Saturday.

"Absolutely. That's awesome," Sale said. "That's why A.J. is such a great clubhouse guy. He has your back in every situation. I thanked him for that."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Being Ozzie Guillen, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.