7/26/2014 9:06 P.M. ET
Cards add veteran catcher Pierzynski to mix
Backstop, released by Boston, to provide depth with Molina out until September
By Daniel Kramer / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- As the Cardinals were going back and forth with the Cubs in a 7-6 loss at Wrigley Field on Friday, A.J. Pierzynski was with his family at Otsego Lake, just outside Cooperstown, N.Y.
Pierzynski, a 17-year veteran, was invited by Frank Thomas to attend his Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday. The two played together on the White Sox during their World Series season in 2005.
But an urgent call came informing Pierzynski that he needed to take a two-hour cab ride to Albany and hop on a plane to Chicago, where would join his sixth big league team.
"It was kind of funny, because when I was getting on the plane, all the White Sox people in Chicago were landing in Cooperstown," Pierzynski said. "So it was kind of weird, we were passing each other. Nobody knew, so they were like 'Where are you going? Why are you going to Chicago?'"
Pierzynski started Saturday and batted sixth, where he went 3-for-4 with an RBI in the Cardinals' 6-3 win at Wrigley Field.
"My first at-bat, I made contact and I was like 'Oh wow,'" Pierzynski said. "That's pretty good, because [Cubs ace Jake] Arrieta, I know, we faced him a couple weeks ago in Boston and he almost no-hit us. I was just going up trying to make contact, and fortunately I got a couple hits."
Pierzynski will split time with Tony Cruz to fill the void behind the plate while Yadier Molina is sideleined. The Cardinals' Gold Glove Award-winning catcher underwent surgery on July 11 for a torn ligament in his right thumb, and his recovery time is 8-12 weeks.
Manager Mike Matheny said that the addition of the left-handed-hitting Pierzynski won't diminish Cruz's role with the team, and that the two could even platoon, as Cruz bats right-handed.
"I think it'll be a lot like what we've seen with quite a few of the other positions. We'll see how guys are going, what we need to do, realizing there is a platoon opportunity," Matheny said. "That was part of the conversation with A.J., too, was letting him know that we've got a guy [Cruz] we have faith in and has done a nice job."
Backup catcher George Kottaras, who the Cardinals picked up off waivers from Cleveland the day Molina had surgery, was designated for assignment to clear roster space for Pierzynski, who was designated by the Red Sox on July 9 and released on the 16th.
The Cardinals seemed to show little interest when Pierzynski was cut by Boston, but were in contact in the days leading up to Friday's deal. Pierzynski said St. Louis wasn't the only team that showed interest.
"We had also been talking to some other teams to see what would happen. But in the end, this seemed like the right place and the right decision," he said, while noting it was the first time in his career he went through midseason negotiations. "It wasn't something that was fun, but it was definitely interesting and eye-opening. In the end, it just seemed like St. Louis was the best place."
Pierzynski was hitting .254/.286/.348 with four homers and 31 RBIs over 72 games in Boston, where he signed a one-year, $8.25 million deal in December.
"He came in the clubhouse, real easy to get along with -- just giddy to be a part of the team," said Saturday's starter Shelby Miller. "We're happy to have him."
"I've heard things everybody else has heard," Matheny said of Pierzynski. "You take all that into perspective. I think it's very smart of all of our guys to step back a minute and say: 'This is a guy that's going to be part of our family right now. We're going to take him in. Whatever preconceived ideas may be, they need to be gone. We need to go play the game.'"
Pierzynski will catch for a young group of pitchers, including the 23-year-old Miller. Matheny said the championship and veteran experience Pierzynski brings was a consideration, and praised the pitches he called Saturday.
Miller and Pierzynski took a perfect game into the fourth inning.
"They realize that A.J. has had parts of 17 years in the big leagues. He's got a pretty good idea of what he's doing back there," Matheny said after Saturday's win. "That's just kind of a relief to our guys to know that the guy behind the plate has a good feel for the game-calling."
Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.