James Shields embraces White Sox rebuild as he tries to rebound

James Shields embraces White Sox rebuild as he tries to rebound

GLENDALE, Ariz. — James Shields wants to move on from last year's nightmare season and he's excited to do so for the rebuilding White Sox.

During his career, Shields has pitched for several rebuilding clubs and has discovered that he likes to provide an example for his younger teammates. The veteran — who has pitched more innings than any other starter in baseball since 2007 — has no issues if the White Sox ask the same of him this season. Many of those teammates would be better served if they kept a close eye on how Shields conducted himself during a trying 2016 campaign.

Shields, who was traded to the White Sox in June, finished with 19 losses, 40 home runs allowed and a 5.85 ERA. He went 4-12 with a 6.77 ERA in 114 1/3 innings for the White Sox.

"I wish it could have been better," Shields said. "There's no doubt about it. I'm a competitor and I don't like to lose and I don't like to get hit around like that. Shocking factor? Not really. Sometimes those things happen, but unfortunately it happened too often. But this season I'm feeling good. I've got a lot of confidence right now in my ability and what I did this offseason and I'm going to carry it on."

Shields was acquired from the San Diego Padres on June 4. Not only was he brought in to boost a sagging White Sox rotation, there was hope he could be one of the final pieces of the puzzle to help them reach the postseason for the first time since 2008.

But fresh off a public lambasting by the Padres' Ron Fowler — one of two shots the chairman took at him during the season — Shields struggled. He allowed 21 runs in 8 2/3 innings in his first three starts with the White Sox.

Pitching coach Don Cooper thinks all of those factors resulted in Shields getting away from the pitcher who has led all of baseball with 2,169 2/3 innings since 2007. Cooper also thinks Shields still has the stuff to rebound in 2017.

"He was traded midseason, trade deadline, after getting hammered by the owner out there," Cooper said. "It couldn't have been a great situation. He comes to a new team, with us, trying to impress, trying to really want to jump in there and help, tried to do a lot more than he was capable of doing. He wasn't there. It didn't turn out the way he wanted it to.

"He still has everything he needs stuff-wise to get people out. He has movement. He has a great changeup. He commands that fastball. We're hoping for a whole lot better for sure. And I'm sure he is, too."

Shields certainly arrived in camp in the right frame of mind. Having played for the Tampa Bay Rays for the first seven seasons of his career, Shields isn't one to shy away from a potential rebuild. He likes showing younger pitchers how to handle themselves over the course of a major league season and sees a lot of potential in the prospects the White Sox acquired.

"I'm smiling because I've been a part of rebuilds quite a bit," Shields said. "So for me, I love it. I absolutely love it. I love having the young kids, being a veteran, being a leader on the team and showing these guys what professional baseball is all about. I've been very successful with the teams I've been on with the rebuilds. We've got a good group of guys. Lot of young talent, lot of good talent and I'm excited to see these guys.”

Mark Buehrle 'floored' White Sox will retire his number

Mark Buehrle 'floored' White Sox will retire his number

GLENDALE, Ariz. — He's a little nervous now that he has a speech to make, but Mark Buehrle is enjoying life and has no regrets about retiring from baseball.

Addressing the media for the first time since his final game on Oct. 4, 2015, Buehrle said Friday he's right where he wants to be — at home with his family. Buehrle determined 3-4 years ago he would retire after his contract expired to spend more time with his wife and kids. The pitcher, who will have his number 56 retired by the White Sox on June 24, said he didn't announce his decision to step away because he hoped to do so with much fanfare.

"I knew I was done, that I didn't have the drive any more," Buehrle said on a conference call. "I think a big part of it was missing the family, they weren't up in Toronto the whole season and I think that just kind of drained on me. The reason I didn't say anything — I didn't want all the attention. I've always told people I was a young guy that came into the big leagues unknown. Kind of snuck into the big leagues and I wanted to kind of sneak my way out. That's why I haven't said anything, I haven't talked to anybody, I just kind of let it go. Hopefully one day it was just kind of got forgotten and five years down the road, ‘Where's that Buehrle guy? Is he still around?'"

Buehrle, who won 161 games and completed 200 innings in 11 straight seasons with the White Sox, has spent the past year-plus on his Missouri farm with his wife, Jamie, and two children, "doing what I've been wanting to do for 20 years," he said. 

While he misses teammates and life in the clubhouse, Buehrle is at peace with his decision to retire after 16 seasons. He discovered when watching games last season that he didn't miss playing as much as he expected.

Buehrle joked that he doesn't want many former teammates to attend the ceremony because it means he'd have to speak in front of a larger audience. He promises to keep his speech brief, similar to the way he pitched. The left-hander even joked that he offered to allow his son to make the speech in his stead.

[RELATED: Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox]

Even though he's one of the most popular players in club history, Buehrle was surprised last month when the White Sox informed him of their plans. He'll be the 12th player to have his number retired by the White Sox.

"I was blown away and floored by it," Buehrle said. "It's obviously a great honor. It's something you don't really intend to happen or you don't play for that reason. You just go out there and play. I had a long, successful career there in Chicago. I just tried to do everything right and that's how I was kind of raised and how I went about it. Jerry (Reinsdorf) is kind enough to come with this offer about retiring my jersey. I really don't know.

"I've been joking around with friends saying my jersey is going to be up there next to Frank Thomas. I grew up watching this guy. It doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem like it belongs up there next to his.

"I'm going to be up there with all those numbers and it doesn't seem right, like that's where I belong. I just did what I was supposed to do, had fun with it and lived every day like it was my last. Now my number is going to be up there. I haven't really soaked everything in. It just doesn't make sense right now."

Carson Fulmer to start for White Sox in exhibition opener

Carson Fulmer to start for White Sox in exhibition opener

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox have lined up their first three starting pitchers of the spring starting with Carson Fulmer on Saturday afternoon.

The team's 2015 first-round draft pick received the nod as the White Sox open their exhibition schedule against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. CST. 

Jose Quintana pitches Sunday at home against the Colorado Rockies while Lucas Giolito is set to start at the Cubs on Monday. Fulmer — who went 0-2 with an 8.49 ERA in 11 2/3 innings in 2016 — likened the start to pitching against the Dodgers in a night game last spring in front of a sellout crowd at Camelback Ranch.

"I'm definitely honored," Fulmer said. "It's great. I feel like the coaching staff here stresses that in order to be a good player, you have to put yourself in situations that you are uncomfortable with. I'm not saying I'm uncomfortable with it but it was definitely a unique situation where I can go out there and help us win. So, spring training and the season, our goal is to win and I feel like with the coaching staff putting us young guys in that situation, I think it's going to benefit us."

[RELATED: White Sox not overly concerned about Todd Frazier's injury]

Fulmer is also excited to face his counterpart Saturday, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. 

"That's awesome," Fulmer said. "I've been watching him pitch since I was a little kid. I'm definitely pumped to see him out there. It's going to be awesome. 

"He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. I mean, he's a pitcher that you look up to and for me, it's going to be awesome. I hopefully can keep the scorecard or something."

The White Sox also announced Friday they have signed 25 players to one-year contracts, including Fulmer. Carlos Rodon's one-year deal for $600,000 is the highest of the bunch.