Pierzynski, Garciaparra get final spots

Published 7:13 pm Friday, July 7, 2006

A.J. Pierzynski got his ticket punched to Pittsburgh.

A magnet for mayhem, the White Sox catcher beat out Minnesota rookie pitcher Francisco Liriano for the final AL All-Star spot in Internet voting Thursday. NL batting leader Nomar Garciaparra breezed to the last NL slot in the fan balloting.

Final totals were not announced. Pierzynski got about 3.6 million votes to hold off a late push by Liriano.

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“Maybe it was the wrestling vote that got me over the top,” Pierzynski said.

The World Series champion White Sox will send seven players to Tuesday night’s game at PNC Park. Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen will guide the AL team in Pittsburgh.

Pierzynski made it after the White Sox launched a “Punch A.J.” campaign this week, printing T-shirts with the catchphrase and a check mark. Team owner Jerry Reinsdorf wore one as he strolled around the batting cage earlier this week.

“The PR department did a great job of getting me out there and coming up with a good slogan and everything,” Pierzynski said.

Pierzynski was punched this year by Cubs catcher Michael Barrett after a collision at the plate, setting off a brawl. Pierzynski found himself in the middle of several controversial plays in the 2005 postseason.

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, already on the AL team, grabbed a microphone and addressed the crowd earlier this week and asked fans to vote for Pierzynski, often a target of boobirds in opposing parks.

“I couldn’t be happier. It means a lot for me, especially for me to go this way — it’s a little vindication with all of the bad stuff certain people have written about me,” Pierzynski said.

Pierzynski is hitting .326 with five home runs and 28 RBIss. Liriano also got strong support after going 9-1 with a 1.99 ERA.

Pierzynski topped Liriano, Cleveland slugger Travis Hafner, Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander and Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez. The 29-year-old Pierzynski also was an All-Star in 2002.

Garciaparra leads the NL in hitting at .359, with 10 home runs and 49 RBIss for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He became a six-time All-Star. “It’s always an honor and a thrill,” He said.