Chicago White Sox

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.

White Sox see pitcher Reynaldo Lopez's injury as 'temporary thing'

White Sox see pitcher Reynaldo Lopez's injury as 'temporary thing'

The White Sox are fairly encouraged about Reynaldo Lopez’s progress and hopeful he returns soon to the mound.

Manager Rick Renteria said before Monday’s doubleheader that Lopez, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained back, said he has increasingly felt better. Lopez went on the DL on Saturday, two days after he made his second start since being promoted to the majors. The right-hander played catch in the outfield on Monday. Renteria also noted that Yoan Moncada would play in the first game of Monday’s doubleheader but he would sit out the second contest to rest his shin splints.

“He’s doing very, very well,” Renteria said of Lopez. “I ask him every day. (Sunday) night before we got off (the plane) he said he’s feeling much, much better. Now it’s a matter of where he’s at, and what we start doing with him activity wise before we he gets back in the rotation.

“This is a temporary thing.”

Similar to Moncada in July, Lopez is the first heralded prospect on the pitching side to appear in the majors. He had a strong debut against the Kansas City Royals on Aug. 11, allowing two earned runs and striking out six in six innings. Lopez struggled in his second start, allowing six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against Texas before he exited. He struck out six and walked four batters before complaining of soreness on his side.

“There’s nothing that’s going to hold this young man back,” Renteria said. “The disappointment is more that he can’t get back out there every five days right, not in terms of his performance. He’s done pretty well. It’s just that he can’t be out there right now. Once he’s healed up he’s going to be fine and be out there every five days.”

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

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USA TODAY

How Nicky Delmonico's ability to bunt for a hit has played a role in his hot start

Put the shift on against Nicky Delmonico and he’s going to drop down a bunt to beat you.

The White Sox rookie has tried his solution for shift-happy defenses already three times this season and it’s worked in each instance.

And while its undoubtedly the long ball -- he’s hit five home runs -- that has caught everyone’s attention during the White Sox rookie’s unbelievable start, don’t overlook the little things, especially Delmonico’s ability to bunt for a hit and the impact it’s had on opposing defenses.

Whenever opponents try to employ a shift, and they’ve done it more often this season, Delmonico has shown no fear in trying to beat them with a bunt down the third-base line.

He bunted for a single in Sunday’s win when he reached base three times to bring his on-base percentage to .451 through 71 plate appearances. There’s no question that forcing defenses to play him straight up is partly responsible for Delmonico reaching base safely in 15 of 17 games to start his major league career.

“It opens up a hole,” Delmonico said. “There’s been a lot of times in Charlotte where you hit a hard ground ball through the four hole and think it’s a hit, but then there’s a guy deep in right field. You want those (to be hits). Any time you can take advantage of bunting and show you can bunt they’ll move out of the shift.”

Take a look at Delmonico’s spray chart and it’ll tell you he’s pull-happy. He’s pulled 47.9 percent of all balls put in play since reaching the majors, according to Fangraphs.com. Were he to be qualified for a batting title, Delmonico would currently be 15th in pull percentage in baseball, easily within range of leader Salvador Perez’s 54.6 percent.

Either way, Delmonico’s spray chart is the type that often leads defenses to load up three gloves on the right side of the infield no matter the count (teams tend to shift to a hitter’s pull side most often with two strikes).

But Delmonico has made them think twice --- at least early in the count.

“Any time I see them all over that’s when it’s the best time to lay one down,” Delmonico said. “You’ve just got to get it past the pitcher and fair.”

You also have to catch the attention of advance scouts. Based on the way he’s been defended so far, hitting coach Todd Steverson thinks opponents have taken notice of Delmonico’s skills.

“It’s got to be in their notes,” Steverson said. “It’s got to be in their data: “This guy will bunt.” Even just the words “he will bunt” keeps somebody close for a minute before they move to another spot. If you have none, then they don’t have to do nothing.

“They want to play him in the full shift. That’s what they did to him from the get-go. He dropped two bunts down on them and said ‘Ok.’ ”

Delmonico said he’s seen an increased number of shifts since reached Triple-A two years ago.

“But it was all different kinds of shifts,” Delmonico said. “Very rarely I would see them all over until two strikes.”

Delmonico works on bunting the same as anyone else. There’s the round he takes each day at the start of batting practice each day. And every few weeks or so, Charlotte brought out the pitching machine.

But what may make him standout are his confidence and conviction. While Delmonico realizes he may be taking the potential for extra bases out of his hands for one at-bat, he’s knows he’s still giving himself a chance to jumpstart a rally and he’s creating a world of opportunities for the rest of his trips to the plate.

“I feel like they’re pretty good,” Delmonico said. “I’ve worked a lot on it the last two years because I know eventually they will shift and to get that hole open you’ve got to prove to them that you will bunt.

“Overall it helps you out and two, it gives you a chance to get on base and get going. That’s the biggest thing for me.”