Pierzynski making smooth transition with Texas
Ex-White Sox catcher happy to be back at Wrigley, playing for Rangers
CHICAGO -- The "Eamus Catuli" sign is back, and that's one of the first things Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski noticed when he walked out of the dugout at Wrigley Field on Tuesday afternoon.
''I'm just happy they put the sign back up in right center field,'' Pierzynski said. ''I'm not going to lie. They took it down [last year] and I was really disappointed because I always liked looking at that sign. That was my favorite sign.''
"Eamus Catuli" means "Let's Go Cubs" in Latin. Adjacent to the phrases are a series of numbers that mark how many years since the Cubs went to the playoffs, the World Series and how long since they had won it. The Cubs haven't been to the playoffs since 2008, they haven't been to the World Series since 1945 and they haven't won it all since 1908.
So the number on the sign is 0467104 and it hangs off an apartment building on Sheffield Ave. beyond the right-field bleachers at Wrigley Field.
"It's always fun to play here," Pierzynski said."It's a great atmosphere. "It was always great and always very fun. The fans here have always been great to me. Yeah, they boo, they yell and stuff, but they never cross the line here. They were always very cordial and fun. I expect nothing less."
He admitted this trip was different and it's not because Wednesday's game was washed out by rain and Thursday's affair looks doubtful as well.
"It's different because I'm not staying in my own house and not looking down and seeing a black and white uniform, but red and blue," Pierzynski said.
The black and white uniforms belong to the Chicago White Sox. They are still on the south side of town, but Pierzynski is not. After eight seasons with the White Sox, he is with the Rangers. So is Geovany Soto, who spent 12 years in the Cubs organization before being traded to the Rangers on July 30.
The Rangers have cornered the market on ex-Chicago catchers, but it's Pierzynski who holds the title of being an "everyday" player and the one who gets booed when he comes to bat in Wrigley.
"Geo and I have a great relationship; we talk all the time," Pierzynski said. "I know he'd like to be in a better situation and playing more, but he has been great. He's been around our pitchers more, so we talked about our pitchers and opposing hitters and how to pitch to them. He's been great talking to me and being on the same page."
Texas signed Pierzynski as a free agent in the offseason. He was coming off his best season offensively, but the Rangers signed him as much for his aggressive personality, his durability and ability to handle a pitching staff. He was the White Sox catcher when they won the World Series in 2005. Manager Ron Washington called him "a winner."
He is finding his place in the Rangers' clubhouse as well as handling a pitching staff that has a 2.85 ERA after 14 games.
"A lot of my success is having the confidence to whom I'm throwing to," pitcher Tanner Scheppers said. "When you can throw to a guy who is on the same page with you and you're not shaking off all the time, it seems to go a lot smoother."
That seems to be in line with the transition Pierzynski has made with his new team.
"It has been great in Texas, similar to the White Sox," Pierzynski said. "They were like, let's see what the guy is about. You can't force yourself into a role. You've got to sit back, be quiet, do what you do and see where you fit in. The guys here have been great. It starts with [Washington], he brings a lot of energy every day. It will be fun."
Pierzynski was 0-for-4 on Tuesday night, but is hitting .310 with two home runs and four RBIs. The Rangers are 8-3 in Pierzynski's 11 starts behind the plate.
"You can always say it could be better," Pierzynski said about his start. "As long as you don't get buried in April. Sometimes you get buried in April and have to fight in May, June and July to get back. You always just try to survive April and get better as the season goes along. A lot of guys on this team are battling right now to do that. But we have a chance to be pretty special."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.