Robin Ventura expects more chatter than usual to come from the opposing catcher on Tuesday night when the White Sox play the Texas Rangers.
He only managed A.J. Pierzynski for one season, but Ventura knows how the backstop operates and what the White Sox can expect when they face their former teammate. The White Sox open a three-game series against Pierzynski and the Rangers as they begin an eight-game, nine-day road trip.
Pierzynski, who spent eight seasons in a White Sox uniform, signed a one-year, $7.5-million deal with the Rangers in December.
“He’s chatty,” Ventura said. “I don’t have to bat. So I don’t have to listen to that part. I’m sure he’ll be chatty.”
Perhaps Pierzynski will note his strong start with Texas.
Fresh off the best season of his career, Pierzynski, 36, has a .295/.324/.474 slash line with four homers and 11 RBIs in 21 games for the Rangers, who are off to a 16-9 start.
He might also note how his former team has struggled out of the gate without him. The White Sox are 10-14 and have scored only 3 1/ 2 runs a game in their first season without Pierzynski since 2004.
Whatever the conversation, John Danks assumes it’ll be surreal, similar to when the White Sox faced former longtime-ace Mark Buehrle in Toronto earlier this month.
“I saw him the opening night they were playing Houston,” Danks said. “It was weird seeing him back there. Obviously we all know AJ and how good of a player he was. It was fun to watch him, kinda weird to not see him in a White Sox uniform.”
The White Sox have already seen Pierzynski once in 2013 in spring training in February when they traveled to Surprise, Ariz. to play Texas. White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise was the first to step into the box with Pierzynski behind the plate. After Wise took three straight pitches from Yu Darvish, who coincidentally will start tonight’s game, Wise said Pierzynski implored him to “help the pitcher out” by swinging the bat.
“He doesn’t bother me,” Wise said at the time. “He’s the type of player that can play on my team any day because you know he’s going to show up ready to play and give you 100 percent. That’s what I like about him. Everybody has their opinion but the guy’s a gamer. I enjoyed playing with him and I wish him the best.”
Although they have faced him once before, Ventura thinks the fact that it’s a regular season game will add extra meaning for both the White Sox and Pierzynski, who along with Paul Konerko were the last remaining players from the 2005 World Series team on the roster in 2012.
Konerko didn’t hit with Pierzynski behind the plate in spring. He hasn’t hit with him behind the plate since Pierzynski played for the Minnesota Twins. But he knows what’s coming.
“It’s been so long since I hit with him catching,” Konerko said. “Knowing A.J., he’ll say something or do something. But he might save his good material for when he comes here.”