Nomar, Pierzynski win voting for final All-Star spots

CHICAGO -- 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.

"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 RBI. 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 was also an All-Star in 2002.

Garciaparra leads the NL in hitting at .359, with 10 home runs and 49 RBI for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He became a six-time All-Star.

"It's always an honor and a thrill. I'm pleased and excited about going," he said. "I wish I could take my whole team."

A former star shortstop, Garciaparra is playing first base in his first season with the Dodgers. He received 4 million votes, beating out Milwaukee pitcher Chris Capuano, Philadelphia outfielder Bobby Abreu, New York Mets closer Billy Wagner and San Diego pitcher Chris Young.

"Making the transition isn't easy. It's still not easy, I take nothing for granted," Garciaparra said.

The 32-year-old Garciaparra was a perennial All-Star with Boston, making the team five times from 1997 to 2003. Injuries took their toll on him over the previous two seasons and left some wondering whether he would return to top form.

"We all knew coming in the No. 1 limiting factor for Nomar was staying on the field," Dodgers manager Grady Little said.

Garciaparra took a 17-game hitting streak into Thursday night's game at San Francisco. A two-time AL batting champ, he is trying to become the first player in more than a century to win the hitting title in both leagues -- Ed Delahanty (1899, 1902) was the last to do it.

Garciaparra will join Dodgers teammate Brad Penny at the All-Star Game.

"He's a big part of the reason I'm going," Penny said. "This is well-deserved with the year he's having. He shouldn't have had to go through the voting process."

White Sox sluggers Jim Thome and Paul Konerko, outfielder Jermaine Dye and pitchers Jose Contreras and Bobby Jenks and Buerhle were previously picked for the AL roster.

This is the second straight season the White Sox have landed the final player through the Internet voting. Last year, a campaign got left fielder Scott Podsednik on the AL team.

"Obviously the Sox fans get out and vote, they have computers and they know how to use the Internet," Pierzynski said. "Some people were questioning that, but I think they did a great job of showing what their support is all about."