A.J. Pierzynski gets warm reception in first trip back to South Side
BY TONI GINNETTI Staff Reporter August 23, 2013 11:14PM
Updated: September 25, 2013 6:18AM
They were the last of the 2005 World Series champion White Sox, so Paul Konerko’s thoughts on A.J. Pierzynski as he returned in another uniform Friday were meaningful.
“You learn from your teammates, but we were always thought of as equals — at least in my mind,’’ he said. “That stuff didn’t exist, like, ‘hey, let me show you how to do this.’ It was always an even playing field there.
“I actually, if anything, looked at him more because he had been on more winning teams with Minnesota — what made that tick, trying to figure out why were those teams so good.
“He had played in a lot more important games than I had played in still, when it comes to playoff baseball.
“But you know, it was definitely a good eight years when he was here. Obviously, A.J. is A.J., but the guy comes to play and he’s a great player.’’
Pierzynski, allowed to leave as a free agent after last season, is still a good player for the Texas Rangers, hitting .279 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI.
And he appears headed to the playoffs again as his old team deals with a woeful season in the cellar.
That is not something Pierzynski expected — or likes.
“Obviously, I’m a little surprised because coming in they had high expectations,’’ he said of the Sox, who saw their six-game win streak end with an 11-5 loss.
The Rangers hit five homers, including an inside-the-park one by Ian Kinsler in the third. Left fielder Dayan Viciedo couldn’t find the ball hiding under the wall mats, bringing an argument from manager Robin Ventura — and his ejection.
Chris Sale (9-12) matched his career-worst game with eight runs allowed.
“Talking to some guys I’m friends with, they’re obviously disappointed where they’re at right now,’’ Pierzynski said of the Sox. “I don’t want to see them do poorly. There’s no ill feelings towards the White Sox organization on my end. Obviously when we play them, I want to see them lose, but other than that I have no ill will, no hard feelings.
“I’m surprised just because I thought going into the year with [John] Danks coming back and [Jake] Peavy healthy and Sale healthy for another full year, I thought they’d have a chance. Their bullpen was solid.
“To see where they are and where they’re sitting right now is a little surprising because I thought, obviously like everyone else, they’d be better.’’
There are no hard feelings toward Pierzynski from the South Side, as a video tribute to him in the first inning and the standing ovation he got in his first at-bat proved.
Though Pierzynski and Alex Rios — traded to the Rangers two weeks ago — are in the opposing dugout now, both were cheered by the Sox faithful.
“This obviously was a special place and I had a lot of great memories,’’ Pierzynski said. “Coming in today, seeing people, the people who nobody knows, the workers, the behind-the-scenes people, it’s cool. I miss those people. I miss the city and the fans. It’s nice to come back, and I’ll be honest, I’ll be happy when it’s over and I can just move on.’’
Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting.
“Obviously, the World Series is No. 1,’’ he said. “No one can ever take that away from that group of guys. It’s a very special group of guys that came together and got along and did special things in a city that hadn’t seen that in almost 100 years.
“Those guys are friends of mine for life, and those are still some of my best friends on Earth, the guys on that team.
“Then, off the field, both my kids were born here. This is all they knew until this year, they only knew White Sox.’’