Grand finale? Buehrle leaves on a winning note

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Grand finale? Buehrle leaves on a winning note

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 9:29 p.m. Updated: 10:41 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
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This game, his season or career finale with the Chicago White Sox, couldnt possibly have gone better for Mark Buehrle.

The lefthander won his 161st career game with the White Sox and further cemented his place in team history with a memorable, soggy, seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

In the process, Buehrle logged his 11th straight season with 200 innings pitched, 10 wins and 30 starts. The win was also Buehrles 13th of the season, giving him the team lead and marking the fifth time hes led the White Sox in wins.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski also crossed a milestone after the first inning, catching 1,000 innings for the 10th straight season, the only streak of that length currently in the majors.

And lets not forget another milestone in the game, interim manager Don Coopers first major league victory.

I had a blastit was fun, the baseball lifer said.

It was Pierzynskis possible eventual replacement, Tyler Flowers, who provided the first scoring, with a massive blast to straightaway center, hitting homers in back-to-back games for the first time. Later, Pierzynski singled in Alejandro De Aza to drive in the eventual deciding run.

Buehrle, at 97 pitches, was sent out by Cooper to start the eighth, but the interim manager held back the rest of the lineup. With his starter out on the mound, alone, Cooper went out to give him a hug and send him to the showers, giving the lefty the chance at a long, heartfelt standing ovation.

It came up perfectly, Cooper said of the Paul Konkero-Cooper staged production. It wasnt exactly plannedbut it couldnt have gone better I relished the opportunity to yank a multimillionaire.

It was the tribute he deserves, Pierzynski said. Hes probably my very favorite pitcher to catch. That my locker was next to his for seven years is pretty great.

I knew I was going out for the eighth, but figured theyd do something, admitted Buehrle, noting he was a lot more nervous before the game and had warned Konerko not to surprise him.

As Jesse Crain warmed up to relieve him, Buehrle was pushed back onto the field by Konerko, to get what Buehrle termed his first-ever curtain call.

The fans kept calling for him, Konerko said. The only regret is we werent really playing important games to finish the season.

Crain immediately gave up a solo shot to Mike McCoy, but Toronto would get no closer than the single-run final. Chris Saleironically slated to enter the starting rotation if Buehrle doesnt re-sign with the White Sox for 2012relieved Crain and got the final five outs of the game, striking out three and earning his eighth save.

By postgame, even Ozzie Guillen was getting into the Buehrle tribute act, tweeting from Miami: Mark buurrrrrr thanks for a great memories buddy. love ya man To bad I couldn't have been there.

As for the current manager, Buehrle offered an honest assessment of the Cooper Era.

So far, so good, he said with a smirk. Lets see what he does Wednesday. Who knows, maybe hell get the job next year.

READ: Cooper on the hot seat - for good?

We thought there was one play where he could have gone out and argued, Konerko laughed. We teased him and said he was too scared to go out there and argue.

Meanwhile, Cooper laughed in recollecting how the game began, with the new manager watching his ace warm up in the pen pregame: I had to laughI told Mark, One career is ending, another is beginning.

What was said around their warm embrace on the mound?

Thanks for everything, Cooper said.

For a first-day guy, Coop seems to have instantly connected with the hearts of White Sox fans everywhere.

Comeback kid

All along, Buehrle has maintained he could very well come back for 2012, saying after Tuesdays win that the White Sox are all I know. Its hard to think otherwise about returning. Deep down, Id love to be back.

The veteran also admitted that if presented with similar offers, he would opt for the White Sox, preferring a three-year deal, but if presented with only a one-year offer, he might opt for retirement.

Hes still doing the job, Konerko said. As a teammate, you want him around.

A.J. left behind

Pierzynski was proud as punch over Buehrles win, but admitted the pulling of the lefty should have looked different: I was supposed to go out there with Coop, but he got caught up in the moment.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information. CSNChicago staff contributed to this report.

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

Prospect Zack Burdi's focus in White Sox camp: 'Act like you belong'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — He already carries the confidence of someone who throws 100 mph. But Zack Burdi felt even more secure entering camp after receiving sound advice from his older brother, who also happens to play pro ball.

Burdi — selected with the 26th overall pick of the 2016 draft — hasn't felt too overwhelmed over the past five weeks even though he's experiencing big league camp for the first time. A process-oriented pitcher, the White Sox prospect said he owes his comfort to the guidance of his brother, Minnesota Twins farmhand Nick Burdi. 

"Act like you belong," Burdi said of the advice. "Don't make it out to be something it isn't. It's still a game. You're still going out there and playing a game you've played for the last 19 years. That was the big thing."

If it weren't for a gaggle of talented, newly acquired prospects alongside him in camp, Burdi might have been the hot topic in camp this spring. He features a fastball that rates 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale, a 60-slider and a 55-changeup, according to MLB.com. The arsenal has many of the belief Burdi could one day be a stalwart in the back of a major league bullpen. The Louisville-product is also very advanced compared with most 2016 draftees and was considered to be the most major league-ready player at the time of last June's draft.

But until the club made a series of moves Tuesday, Burdi, who has a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 10 innings this spring, was just one of a bevy of talented prospects in the White Sox clubhouse. Of the team's top seven prospects, five are right-handed pitchers. Burdi is the team's No. 7 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. 

Armed with his brother's advice, Burdi has focused on keeping his head low and his eyes and ears open this spring. He said one of the best parts about the advice that Nick Burdi — who also went to Louisville and was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft — offered is that he had a sense of how the camp would be run. Though no two camps are alike, having a sense of what the day-to-day operation is like gave Burdi comfort. 

"Nick's someone I've looked to in countless situations in baseball or outside of it for advice," Zack Burdi said. "It has been nothing but good advice throughout it all. To come to camp and kind of have a little insight of how it's going to go, how it's going to be, was a huge personal advantage for me because I like to know how certain things are going to go. I don't like going in too blind."

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Burdi is in an enviable position as his first big league camp is coming to a close. He's the highest-rated prospect left after a series of moves Tuesday sent second baseman Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer to minor league camp. 

The White Sox head back to Chicago next Wednesday.

General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox merely want to give the Downers Grove-product a little more time to soak up the big league atmosphere. While its more likely he begins the season at Triple-A Charlotte, Burdi ranks high on the team's depth chart and could be in line for a late-innings role were the White Sox to trade a reliever. Either way, Burdi isn't worried about anything but his own performance and conduct. 

"I'm confident with where I'm at," Burdi said. "I'm just excited to see where the season's going to take me. If it's Triple-A then that's awesome. Going to go there and do my best to help the team. if it's the big leagues then it'll be the same thing: go up, do my best and keep learning day by day and just trust the process and keep growing."

White Sox pitcher James Shields hopes to rediscover aggressive nature

White Sox pitcher James Shields hopes to rediscover aggressive nature

SURPRISE, Ariz. — James Shields wants to regain the aggressive style that made him successful for so long. He feels like he's on the way.

Even though he didn't think his delivery was very sharp on Tuesday, Shields made his pitches when he needed to over six scoreless innings. The White Sox bullpen allowed four late runs in a 4-3 loss to the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Shields allowed three hits, walked one and struck out six in a 75-pitch effort.

"Yeah, I think so," Shields said when asked if he got away from being aggressive in 2016, when he posted a 6.77 ERA for the White Sox. "I think my ball was flat. It wasn't down in the zone. And when you're not down in the zone, it's hard to be aggressive. Because if you're up in the zone and being aggressive, hitters are going to take advantage of that."

Shields said he made several mid-game adjustments after feeling erratic in the bullpen and early in the contest. He threw all of his pitches on Tuesday night but mostly focused on commanding his two-seam fastball. The right-hander wants to induce more ground balls this season. Over the past two years, Shields has allowed 73 home runs in 384 innings. His groundball rate is down nearly five percent from 2014, according to fangraphs.com.

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Mostly, Shields wants to rediscover the aggressive nature that helped him produce 29.1 Wins Above Replacement from 2007 to 2014. That was a message he's heard from both his current pitching coach (Don Cooper) and his former one, the San Diego Padres' Darren Balsley.

Balsley called this winter to support Shields, his pitcher of a season and a half. As Shields notes, the advice wasn't anything new — it was merely a pick-me-up from an old friend.

"(Balsley) just called me and said, 'Hey, the best piece of advice I can give you is trust your stuff,'" Shields said. "'Believe what you're doing is going to get the job done.' In general, I do think that. He's just kind of giving me a little reminder as an ex-pitching coach.

"Just the fact he called me even though he's not my pitching coach any more shows me that he cares a lot about me, man. I have a lot of respect for him.

"More or less he wants me to be aggressive, and he was telling me that when I was with them. It wasn't something that was new."

After coming over from the Padres in a trade, Shields worked tirelessly with Cooper on mechanics last summer to keep the ball down in the zone. He found it for a period of seven starts between June and July but couldn't maintain any consistency. The veteran has maintained all spring that he's ready to move on from 2016 and feels like he's in a good place both mentally and physically.

"I feel good now with my stuff and I'm being more aggressive and my locations are better," Shields said. "Just working the process and I’m feeling good now."

Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu each had two hits and drove in a run in the losing effort.