Sox defense shines in spring training opener

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Sox defense shines in spring training opener

If the White Sox first spring training game of the year was any indication, they're going to have some fantastic infield defense this season.

That's not groundbreaking -- Alexei Ramirez should have won a Gold Glove or two by now, while Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel are promising young defenders as second and third base, respectively. And the sure hands of Paul Konerko don't hurt over at first base, either.

But Monday, the Sox put on a defensive showcase, with Beckham making more than a few strong plays, showing off good range and instincts as well as a strong arm. He threw out Dodgers speedburner Dee Gordon on a slow grounder to second (a play Gordon often beats out) and gunned down James Loney at the plate with a strong relay throw from the outfield.

The good defense didn't stop when Robin Ventura inserted the reserves, as Jim Gallagher made an outstanding over-the-shoulder diving catch at first base and Eduardo Escobar showed off some plus range at shortstop.

As good as Beckham was defensively, though, he looked just as lost offensively. It's the first game of the spring, so any concerns may not be warranted -- but he struck out twice, neither of which were good. He was late on a fastball in his first trip to the plate and was fooled by a breaking ball his second time up, with Bill Melton going so far as to mention that Beckham looked like he was in his own head. For someone who spoke all offseason about clearing his head, it wasn't a good start -- although, again, two at-bats is really no reason to be worried yet.

In better news, Jared Mitchell looked impressive in his first at-bat of the spring. He ripped a line drive up the middle that caromed off the second base bag, which he legged out for a double. Hopefully that's a good sign for the former first-round pick: He certainly didn't look hampered by the ankle that has bothered him for nearly two years now.

Dan Johnson made an early mark on his longshot case to join the White Sox bench, drilling a two-run homer in the ninth to account for half of the team's runs.

On the pitching side of things, Nestor Molina was knocked around, allowing five runs on seven hits, one of which was a long home run off the bat of Andy Van Slyke's kid. But he didn't walk anyone, and this early in the spring, that's cause enough to temper any freakouts.

And finally, Addison Reed had a nice battle with Matt Kemp in the fourth inning, ultimately striking out star outfielder with a pretty filthy slider. He missed with a few sliders in the sequence, but Kemp had no chance on the two he threw for strikes.

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

The White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 prior to June 24's game against the Oakland Athletics, a deserving honor for one of the best pitchers in franchise history. The left-hander compiled a 3.83 ERA and won 161 games during 12 seasons with the White Sox, and perhaps more impressively, he threw over 200 innings every year he was a full-time member of the team's starting rotation. 

So with the White Sox announcing Buehrle's number retirement ceremony for this summer, let's take a look back at the best games the St. Charles, Mo. native pitched with the White Sox. 

1. July 23, 2009: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:03

Buehrle's perfect game, complete with Dewayne Wise's legendary catch, sits at the top of mountain of Buehrle's historic achievements with the White Sox. This was a vintage Buehrle game, with him working quickly and getting plenty of weak contact. It just turned out that Tampa Bay couldn't get anyone on base in it.

2. April 18, 2007: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Texas. Time of game: 2:03

By game score, this was actually the best game Buehrle pitched in his career thanks to the two more strikeouts he had than in his perfect game. And in no-hitting the Rangers, Buehrle still faced the minimum — after walking Sammy Sosa, he picked off the former Cubs slugger. 

3. April 16, 2005: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K vs. Seattle. Time of game: 1:39

The 99-minute game might get lost in Buehrle's career thanks to his no-hitter and perfect game, but it's right up there in terms of how impressive it was. Not only did Buehrle set a career high in strikeouts against Seattle, but only one Mariners player got a hit that day (Ichiro, who naturally had all three). And it was the first — and still only — nine-inning game to be completed in under 100 minutes since 1984.

4. Aug. 3, 2001: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:12

Before Buehrle was an All-Star, World Series winner and no-hitter/perfect game thrower, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Devil Rays before Damian Rolls singled to break it up. This wasn't Buehrle's first great start of his career — that came in a three-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers on May 26, 2001 — but it stood up for a decade and a half as one of the best games he pitched in the majors. 

5. July 21, 2004: 0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Cleveland. Time of game: 2:31

This was another brush with perfection for Buehrle, who only allowed a one-out, seventh-inning single to Omar Vizquel (he got Matt Lawton to hit into a double play after, allowing him to face the minimum for the first time in his career). This is the longest game in Buehrle's top five thanks to the White Sox blasting Cliff Lee and the Indians for 14 runs, but even then, barely over two and a half hours was a relatively brisk pace. 

White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's number in June

White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's number in June

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Mark Buehrle apparently has retired after all.

The longtime White Sox pitcher, who never officially called it quits, will have his No. 56 retired on June 24.

Buehrle, who won 161 games and completed at least 200 innings in 11 straight seasons for the White Sox, last pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015. The White Sox will honor their former ace — he's the 12th player in franchise history to have his number retired — before they host the Oakland A's at 1:10 p.m. in June.

Buehrle was a human highlight reel over his 12 seasons with the White Sox. Whether it was his fancy glovework, a perfect game, his no-hitter or recording a save in the 14th inning of Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, Buehrle was a South Side legend.

"Mark Buehrle is one of the most accomplished pitchers in franchise history," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Mark carried himself with class and professionalism throughout his career, and his popularity with staff, teammates and Sox fans is very well deserved. Although a very humble person, he certainly showed a flair for the dramatic on the mound, from a no-hitter to an unforgettable perfect game to a World Series title. A standout on the field and a standup teammate in the clubhouse, it is our honor to retire Mark Buehrle’s No. 56 and to welcome him into the legendary class of all-time White Sox greats."

The White Sox selected Buehrle in the 38th round of the 1998 amateur draft and he debuted in 2000, going 4-1 in 28 games (three starts). Buehrle also earned four All-Star nods while with the team (five overall) and was a three-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner (four overall). He also won two of three starts during the team's 2005 World Series run as the team snapped an 88-year championship drought.

Buehrle signed a four-year, $58-million deal with the Miami Marlins ahead of the 2012 season and was later traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. He pitched 200 innings in 14 consecutive seasons before falling four outs shy of the feat in his final campaign (2015). Though Buehrle never officially retired, he hasn’t pursued pitching for another team since.