CHICAGO -- Good morning from the north end of the Magnificent Mile, where the early risers among the Red Sox awoke to snow on Oak Street Beach, ice on the streets and temperatures in the 20s -- baseball weather, Chicago style.
The Red Sox are scheduled to open a three-game set against the White Sox on Tuesday night in U.S. Cellular Field, and with this being the team’s only visit to Chicago, chances are pretty good that freezing temperatures will not deter the game from being played, although stay tuned for further updates.
For two Red Sox players, A.J. Pierzynski and Jake Peavy, this represents a return to familiar turf. Pierzynski played eight seasons for the White Sox (2005-2012), winning a World Series ring in his first season, while Peavy, who is scheduled to pitch for the Sox on Tuesday night, spent parts of five seasons here (2009-2013), though much of that time he was hurt.
It was Pierzynski of whom former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen famously said, “If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less.” If that’s all you knew about their relationship, you might assume it was an uneasy alliance, at best. The reality is much different. The two remain very close.
If Guillen is in town, Pierzynski said, he’ll probably swing by to see him at some point this week.
“He came last year," said Pierzynski, who was with Texas in 2013. “We were in Wrigley last year; I think it was the only game he went to all year.
“I still talk to him all the time. He definitely comes out of his way to see me, and I appreciate it. I’ve known him for a long time, we have a special bond. His son was texting me the other day, [Ozzie] Junior. If he’s in town, he’ll definitely come by and say hello."
As for the “hate ‘em less" quote, Pierzynski said: “I said the same thing about him as a manager. You have to know Ozzie. He’s always looking to see his name and face in the newspaper."
Pierzynski lived right in the city, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, about a mile and a half from Wrigley Field and eight or so miles from U.S. Cellular Field. On days when the sun was shining, he’d take beautiful Lake Shore Drive to work, about as pretty a commute as you can find in urban America.
“I don’t think you can beat Chicago in a lot of things,"’ he said. “Lake Shore Drive is about as good as it gets. The city’s clean. Nice people, they look out for you and take care of you."
Peavy, meanwhile, has been hearing it from young White Sox left-hander Chris Sale, who is lamenting that he won’t be going against his former teammate this week. Sale is scheduled to pitch Thursday.
“I told Chris Sale, ‘I know you wanted Old Man Peavy but you’re going to get our left-hander [Jon Lester] Thursday night. If you want to be the best left-hander in the league, you got to surpass this guy that we’re throwing at you,' " Peavy said.
“Chris Sale is such a good kid, one of my dear, dear buddies. I pull for him, keep in contact with him on a weekly basis. I tried to be the best role model I could be, the best friend I could be period. He’s young, kind of in the same place I was. He had a son at a very young age, we kind of walked through the same path of life. Both from the South, him Florida, me Alabama, we hit it off.
“Johnny Danks, the same way. The three of us are really close."
“The old man," as Peavy referred to himself, is the only one still standing from last summer’s three-team, trading-deadline deal that brought him to the Red Sox. Jose Iglesias, the marvelous shortstop traded by Boston to Detroit, is out for months with stress fractures in both legs, while outfielder Avisail Garcia, who went from the Tigers to the White Sox and had homered twice in the team’s first eight games, tore the labrum in his left (nonthrowing) shoulder while attempting a diving catch and is out for the season. Peavy expressed his sympathy for the White Sox, but the trade “could not have worked out for me better personally."
The 25-year-old Sale, who has blossomed into one of the game’s top young pitchers and is 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA this season, credited Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves for helping him to develop one of his best pitches, his changeup.
"Actually, I talk to him quite a bit. What a great guy he is," Sale told Scott Merkin of MLB.com. "He was one of the guys that really developed my changeup in terms of showing me grips and things like that.
"Even when I was in the bullpen, he was still making sure I was keeping that sharp, even though I didn't use it quite as much."
A.J. and Augusta: With the Masters being played last weekend, Pierzynski shared his story about getting to play the famed Augusta course.
“Through a friend of a friend who was a member -- kind of random," Pierzynski said. “The guy e-mailed me on a Tuesday, ‘hey want to play Sunday?’ I shot up from Orlando, spent the night in Atlanta, the guy picked me up, we drove over, played, and I flew back that night.
“Pretty amazing. I was there in late January, and not a blade of grass was out of place. Everything was as perfect as you can imagine. I birdied 13, my only birdie, but I didn’t lose any balls, which is good.
“Ten and 11 are hard holes, especially 11, because I’m lefty, so I can’t really play a big hook. I kind of cut the ball so [it was hard] for me to get around the corner.
“I got lucky. It was cool. Definitely something I’ll remember."