A.J. Pierzynski awaits homecoming at U.S. Cellular Field
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN White Sox Reporter August 22, 2013 1:44PM
Updated: August 23, 2013 4:43PM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A.J. Pierzynski will probably have mixed emotions when he returns to U.S. Cellular Field on Friday as a Texas Ranger. Pierzynski played eight seasons as a catcher for the White Sox, including the 2005 World Series year, his first.
A fan favorite, Pierzynski is expected to receive a warm reception from fans. The Sox will welcome him back with a Diamond Vision Board presentation in the same way they welcomed back Mark Buehrle.
“I’m sure he will get a very warm welcome back from our fans,’’ Sox senior vice president for marketing and sales Brooks Boyer said. “He will always be remembered as a White Sox.’’
“I will be glad to get it over with, especially Friday,” Pierzynski told reporters in Texas on Wednesday. “But I’m looking forward to it and seeing some people. I still have a lot of friends over there, guys who I will be friends with for life.
“It will be weird going into the visitor’s clubhouse, but I’m looking forward to going to the city. I love the city, I love the organization and I love the fans. Hopefully we’ll go in there and play well.”
The warm and fuzzies were held in check when the Sox played in Texas on April 30-May 2. Pierzynski started the last of a three-game series only because of an oblique injury. Most notably, he was hit on his right elbow pad by a pitch from Addison Reed while pinch-hitting in the ninth inning of a 5-2 Sox win in the second game.
It looked fishy, and Pierzynski was angered by it, flipping his bat and saying afterward “that’s not how you play the game.’’
“What am i supposed to believe? You know? What else? It’s not the way you’re supposed to play the game and it’s fine. It’s over,’’ Pierzynski said at the time.
Reed and manager Robin Ventura both said it was unintentional.
“Absolutely not,’’ Reed said.
It should also be noted that Pierzynski didn’t pull back on the pitch. If anything, he flinched forward with the elbow. Then he flipped his bat angrily and had words for Reed.
The Sox also won the next night, 3-1, and Pierzynski, who was not a full strength, went 0-for-4 including a strikeout by Reed in the ninth inning. A week later, he went on the disabled list with the oblique strain.
Hector Santiago started the game and retired Pierzynski on two fly outs. He also flied out against Matt Thornton.
“He almost got me, he almost got me,’’ Santiago said. “On a slider away, I think. It left the bat and I was like, ‘Oh, no -- no way, because it was to right center where the ball travels. But he didn’t get me.’’
Pierzynski wanted to remain with the White Sox but was allowed to walk in free agency after the Sox decided to give Tyler Flowers a crack at the No. 1 catcher’s job. Pierzynski,36, signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal and is batting .279 with 14 homers and 52 RBI. Flowers has been replaced by Josh Phegley as the starting catcher.
“He definitely will get a nice reception, for sure,’’ Santiago said. “He’s an amazing hitter, battle, battle, battle. It seemed like he never struck out.’’
Alex Rios, who played for the Sox since 2009, will also return.
“Oh yeah, my old teammate,’’ outfielder Alejandro De Aza said with a smile. “It’s always fun when you play somebody who is now on the opposite side. He’s a great dude.
De Aza said seeing teammates leave isn’t that big of a deal.
“No, because this is a business.,’’ he said. “Tomorrow you never know where you’re going to be. We all get used to it because it happens a lot in this game.’’