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Pierzynski and Rios return to Chicago

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CHICAGO (AP)

Former White Sox stars A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios on Friday made their return to Chicago for the first time in Texas Rangers uniforms.

''This obviously was a special place and I have a lot of great memories here, so it's fun to come back and see everybody,'' said Pierzynski, 36, who signed with the Rangers as a free agent after last season when the White Sox did not tender a contract to him.

''This was home for a long time,'' said Pierzynski, who played eight seasons with the White Sox. ''It's unfortunate, but things happen and I ended up in a pretty darn good place.''

Given where the White Sox are (52-74) and the Rangers (74-53, tied with Detroit for best record in the American League), Chicago may be second-guessing itself for letting Pierzynski go. He came into Friday night's game, the first of a three-game series, hitting .279 with 14 home runs for Texas.

''You've got to want to get back there every day and I've been fortunate I've been on teams where they've asked me to do that,'' the veteran catcher said. ''That's one of those things that's prideful. I still want to be back there. I still want to help teams and I'm happy to be a Ranger and on a team that's doing well, and where I get to play.''

At the same time, Pierzynski feels for the struggles his former team has gone through this season.

''Obviously I'm a little surprised because I think coming in they thought they had high expectations,'' Pierzynski said. ''There's no ill feelings toward the White Sox organization at all on my end, so I don't want to see them do poorly. Obviously when we play `em I want to see them lose, but other than that I have no ill will or hard feelings at all to them.

''To see where they are and where they're sitting right now, yeah, it is a little surprising because I thought, like everybody else, they'd be better.''

As for Rios, the Rangers acquired him in an August 8 trade with the White Sox for cash and a player to be named later.

''It hasn't been that bad,'' Rios said of the transition to his new team. ''They welcomed me with open arms. It was a very warm welcome and since the first day I thought I was part of the family, that's how good they received me.''

Had the trade not occurred, Rios would still be with a team that will miss the playoffs. Instead, he's now on one of the best teams in the majors and is looking forward to the playoffs.

''I'm actually excited, I've never experienced the playoffs before,'' Rios said. ''The only thing that I can relate to that feeling is the (World Baseball Classic) when we made it to the Finals, but I guess the playoffs is another feeling and I'm looking forward to that.''

Rios and Pierzynski have been made to feel at home with the Rangers, and with good reason: they're two of seven players on the current 25-man roster that previously played in Chicago with either the White Sox (relievers Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor) or the crosstown Cubs (starting pitcher Matt Garza, acquired July 22; catcher Geovany Soto and utilityman Jeff Baker).

''(Having familiar faces when he arrived in Texas) did help a little bit, because you jump right in and start talking to them and the transition isn't as bad,'' Rios said. ''Having A.J. and Soto, who I know from back home, it was a good thing.''

When former White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle made his first visit back to Chicago after joining the Miami Marlins in 2012, he inadvertently went to the White Sox dressing room by force of old habit.

Pierzynski has talked to Buerhle about the gaff, but didn't do so himself. Still, it was pretty obvious talking to Pierzynski before Friday's game that he misses the Windy City and his old team.

''I have nothing but great feelings for the fans, the city, the organization and I miss the city,'' he said. ''I miss the people. I miss the energy of the city, but I'm very happy in Dallas, in Arlington and it was a fun ride.''

Tagged: White Sox, Rangers, A.J. Pierzynski, Alex Rios

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