Cubs notebook: Pignatiello gets plenty of support in Wrigley debut

Jeff Vorva

Carmen Pignatiello was all smiles, saying, “It can’t get better than this” after making his major league debut with the Cubs on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

But the left-hander wasn’t even the happiest guy named Carmen Pignatiello in the place.

Carmen Pignatiello, a Mokena native and Providence Catholic High School alum, threw a scoreless eighth inning during the Cubs’ 12-4 victory over Cincinnati.

While the 24-year-old was pumped up afterward, his excitement couldn’t hold a candle to that of his 76-year-old grandfather, also named Carmen. The elder Pignatiello was one of several family members at the game, and boasted he was yelling the loudest.

“I was making all the noise and shouting at every play,” said the grandfather, who lives in Tinley Park. “He pitched a no-hit game when he was 14 years old, against Lincoln-Way, and I was yelling then. And I was yelling today. He pitched and beat Cuba in a World Series (with the USA Youth National Team in 1998). That was exciting. But this was the most exciting day in my life.”

After the younger Pignatiello met with the media in the clubhouse, he came out to the family area, where he received a long hug from his wife, Julie, who also wasn’t very silent when her husband was pitching. Then the two Carmens shared a long hug.

After spending more than seven years in the Cubs system, wondering if he would ever get this chance, Pignatiello appreciated what this debut and all of the hugs meant.

His day started on a good note when he walked into the clubhouse and saw that the nameplate above his locker was corrected. It no longer read “Carmen Tignaitello.”

The rest of the day also went pretty well for him.

He gave up an infield hit to Adam Dunn, then struck out Scott Hatteberg looking. Pignatiello got Javier Valentin to fly out and Edwin Encarnacion to ground out.

Pignatiello, who lives in Aurora, said he couldn’t feel his legs when he went out to the mound. Shortstop Ryan Theriot had some words of encouragement for him.

“I told him to relax and have fun because he deserves it,” Theriot said. “I remember my first (big-league) experience, and it was hard because there wasn’t anyone I played with. Carmen and I came up together, and I know how important it is to have somebody behind you and giving you a vote of confidence. I can’t tell you how many times he’s turned around and looked and seen me back there.

“That’s a comforting feeling and I wanted to let him know I was there.”

Pignatiello is looking forward to getting back on the hill.

“I think it will be easier, and I hope it’s in a closer game and a tougher situation,” he said. “I know that’s what I’m going to have to do. I excel in battles.”

Scary Moment

Jacque Jones, who went 4-for-5 Thursday and is 18-for-35 (.514) during an eight-game hitting streak, was taken out of the game in the eighth after he twisted his left ankle.

“I’m fine,” Jones said. “I’ll ready for (today).”

Sneak Preview

First-round draft pick Josh Vitters, who agreed to a deal with a $3.2 million signing bonus minutes before Wednesday’s 11 p.m. deadline, plans to head to Mesa next week to play in the Arizona Fall League. He hopes to get a chance to play for Class A Boise before the season ends.

He will take batting practice with the Cubs before today’s game against St. Louis.

Josh-ing

While Vitters was doing a TV interview with Len Kasper and Bob Brenly at 11:26 p.m. Wednesday, Cincinnati pinch-hitter Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer off Bob Howry in the eighth to put the Reds up 11-9. That score stood up as the final.

Short Hops

Carlos Zambrano threw a bullpen session without medical staff members present. Manager Lou Piniella said Zambrano’s arm is fine. ... Pignatiello became the 11th rookie to appear in a game this year for the Cubs and eighth to make his big-league debut. ... The Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities League (RBI) named South Sider Ronnie Chester its MVP. Chester was able to hang around the clubhouse and dugout before the game. ... The “Times of Greatness” Tour, a mobile museum dedicated to the history of the Negro Leagues, will make a stop Saturday at Wrigley Field. The mobile museum will be located at 3620 N. Clark St. and is open to the public from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

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