Notes: Time to play games
Barrett, Pierzynski meet before opener; Ozuna pulled
CHICAGO -- With the large amount of White Sox fans in attendance among the 40,720 at Wrigley Field for Friday's series opener against the Cubs, the loud boos produced by the first-inning introduction of A.J. Pierzynski were pretty much counter-balanced by the equally loud support from the White Sox faithful.
Pierzynski figured to be the target of Cubs fans derision, following the May 20 incident at U.S. Cellular Field, when Pierzynski plowed over catcher Michael Barrett at home plate on a Brian Anderson sacrifice fly and then took a punch to his face from Barrett for his troubles. The incident has all but been settled, with Barrett's 10-game suspension ending Friday, and Pierzynski's appeal of his $2,000 fine coming Friday morning.
But one more step that Pierzynski didn't expect also took place a few hours before Friday's first pitch. Barrett approached Pierzynski in right field during batting practice and extended his hand in apology, giving closure to the unfortunate chain of events brought about by Pierzynski simply playing intense and clean baseball.
After the White Sox 6-2 victory, Pierzynski would not divulge the specifics of the brief conversation.
"What was said was between him and I, but I appreciate the gesture," said Pierzynski of his talk with Barrett. "We're over it and we're moving on.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's over. As far as Michael is concerned, when we talked, it was over."
Even before Barrett made the pregame gesture, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Pierzynski pretty much had put the encounter on the backburner in favor of shifting the focus back on the field. Guillen also shook hands with Barrett, the two being friends from Barrett's time as a catcher in Montreal when Guillen was a third-base coach, although Guillen added that he believes Barrett overreacted to Pierzynski's aggressive actions.
"That's my opinion. He knows it," Guillen said. "It's nothing against Michael. He's my boy. I like him a lot, the same way I like A.J. I try not to upset anyone by going and saying hi to Michael. He's my friend.
"It take a man to apologize to anyone. I never expected he was going to do it, to be honest with you. It was nice for Michael to do that."
Guillen added that Barrett did not have to apologize to Pierzynski, pointing out that what happened at U.S. Cellular Field is not the first on-field fight in the history of baseball. Pierzynski, meanwhile, had a 70-minute conference call with John McHale Jr., Major League Baseball's arbiter, presenting his case to have the fine erased.
In regard to creative catcalls from the Cubs' fans Friday, Pierzynski said he heard nothing. Seemingly half of the people in attendance supporting the White Sox could account for that particular result.
"It's the sixth game I've played here total, and I thought it was 50-50," said Pierzynski of the fans. "I got a standing ovation basically when I came up to hit. It was kind of nice."
For the record, the ovation afforded to Barrett in his first-inning at-bat was louder than the jeers directed at Pierzynski.
Change in the lineup: Guillen originally had planned to give Scott Podsednik the day off against Cubs left-hander Sean Marshall, inserting right-handed hitting Pablo Ozuna and his .432 average at the top of the lineup. That plan didn't last very long.
Ozuna singled to open the game, extending his career-best hitting streak to 11 games, but pulled up lame as he went from first to third on Paul Konerko's bloop single to right-center. Guillen quickly removed Ozuna, who had not played since Sunday night because of a strained left hamstring, and replaced him with Podsednik.
The postgame report on Ozuna certainly did not paint a bleak long-term picture, although he might be lost for the series.
"I don't want to take a chance on losing this kid for 15 to 20 days for no reason," Guillen said. "It's one thing I always tell my players, make sure you don't try to be a hero. I thought he was 100 percent ready, but he wasn't."
The Wrigley experience: With his outgoing and engaging personality, Anderson would seem to have the perfect demeanor to interact with the bleacher bums at Wrigley Field. But the rookie center fielder had other reasons to look forward to his debut on the North Side on Friday afternoon.
"I've never been fortunate enough to play at Wrigley Field," said Anderson, who finished 0-for-3 Friday. "[Where] I live, I can see Wrigley Field outside of my window. I can see it when I walk outside.
"It will be nice to go there and finally get a chance to play instead of going there and watching it with standing-room-only tickets," added Anderson with a smile.
Although Anderson played a major role in the brawl at U.S. Cellular Field, drawing and serving a five-game suspension for defending his teammate, he was not worried about the fans' reaction to his appearance. There were no concerns as long as Pierzynski was in the lineup.
"A.J. is going to get the majority of it, and I'll just be overshadowed by the whole thing," Anderson said. "If they yell at me, so be it. I'm just going to play. It's not like this is the first time someone has yelled at me. I'll just tell them to turn the page."
Making an appearance: During the White Sox off-day on July 17, Guillen plans on being present at the Gay Games in Chicago. The break in the action follows a three-game set at Yankee Stadium to start the season's second half and comes before a three-game series in Detroit.
The White Sox manager's attendance has absolutely nothing to do with the recent controversy centered on his use of a homosexual slur to describe Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti, a point Guillen reiterated Friday.
"Don't take me wrong, if people think I'm going there because I said what I said, then people will say I feel guilty," said Guillen, who added that he has a couple of friends going to the Games. "But I'm going there because I want to see how they do it."
Down on the farm: Kyle McCulloch threw one perfect inning of relief for Great Falls on Thursday night in his professional debut, during a 2-0 loss to Billings. McCulloch is the White Sox first-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player draft, selected 29th overall. ... Dewon Day picked up his third save and extended his stretch of innings pitched without allowing an earned run to 13 1/3 as part of Class A Winston-Salem's 2-1 victory at Salem. Day has 16 strikeouts during this recent run of perfection. ... Josh Fields doubled among his two hits, but Heath Phillips (10-3) was tagged for 14 hits and four earned runs over 6 2/3 innings, as Triple-A Charlotte fell by a 5-3 margin at Toledo. Andrew Lorraine, the veteran lefty recently signed by the White Sox, threw two scoreless innings. ... Fernando Valenzuela Jr. hit his fourth home run, but Class A Kannapolis fell to 21-56 via a doubleheader sweep at the hands of Hickory.
Up next: It was a less-than-perfect start for Javier Vazquez (8-4, 5.00) last Sunday against the Astros, allowing a season-high nine runs over six innings. Vazquez, who will be opposed by Greg Maddux (7-8, 4.94), is 2-1 with a 7.50 ERA during his June starts and 3-3 with a 4.81 ERA lifetime against the Cubs.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.