Sox Drawer: Buehrle would 'love to be back'

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Sox Drawer: Buehrle would 'love to be back'

Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011
Posted: 12:56 a.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

If Ozzie Guillen was the face of the White Sox, Mark Buehrle has long been their arm.

For 365 starts, its been there time and time again, providing some of the greatest moments in franchise history.

The play.

The no-hitter.

The perfect game.

All of them permanently etched in our memories.

But its not just the arm, its also the lungs, because for 12 memorable seasons Buehrle has taken everyones breath away. Tuesday night was no different.

It would be nice to see a vintage Buehrle game tonight, said Paul Konerko, standing at his locker a couple hours before the game.

Once again, Mark delivered.

In what could be his final game in a White Sox uniform, the soon-to-be free agent went out and was typical, trademark Buehrle.

7 innings, 0 runs, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts.

That, plus a goosebump exit from the field that left 23,934 fans with a collective lump in their throats.

With Buehrle on the mound, ready to start the eighth inning, interim manager Don Cooper came out and took the ball from his Gold Glove pitcher, allowing Buehrle to leave the field to a raucous standing ovation as he returned to the dugout.

It felt like a normal game, but the crowd going crazy and Paul Konerko pushing me out there and he was like Theyre calling for you. Ive never had a curtain call in my career. It got kind of emotional there towards the end.

Before the game, Buehrle was most concerned about the beginning.

He confided with his older brother that if he saw his family in the crowd as he took the field he worried hed be fighting back tears. Turns out it was much ado about nothing. Mark came out, grabbed the ball, and struck out the first batter he faced.

When he arrived at the ballpark around 4 p.m., the first player Buehrle spotted was none other than Dewayne Wise, his former Sox teammate now with the Blue Jays who magically saved Buehrles perfect game in 2009 with that incredible catch in the ninth inning.

Buehrle asked Wise if he was in the lineup. He wasnt. Too bad.
"Its going to be a weird feeling, not looking over and seeing Mark with a smile on his face, joking and laughing.-- A.J. Pierzynski.
I think he was going to throw me a cookie, Wise said with a smile on his face.

It could have been Buehrles way of saying thank you for helping him make history.

It also could have wiped away the dream Wise had the night before. While sleeping in his Chicago hotel, Wise dreamt that he hit three screaming line drives right back at Buehrle, and all three times Mark laid out and caught every one of them.

And after the last one, I raised my bat in the air like I was going to throw it at him as a joke, and the whole crowd laughed, Wise said.

If laughter is the best medicine, Buehrle has long been the joke doctor inside the White Sox clubhouse.

I asked A.J. Pierzynski what it will be like without Buehrle on the team anymore. Mark, whose locker has been right next to Pierzynskis for seven years, overheard my question and chimed in with a sarcastic He gone!

Thats just who Mark is. And if he leaves?

Its going to be different, Pierzynski said. Like Ozzie not being here. Its all Ive known for seven years is those two guys. Coming to spring training next year, if theyre not here, its going to be a weird feeling, not looking over my left and seeing Mark with a smile on his face, joking and laughing. I hope that Mark is back, and hopefully they find a way to get it done.

That will be up to Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams, who will be playing financial gymnastics during the off-season, likely cutting payroll after this thoroughly disappointing 2011 season.

As a left-handed starter with a 13-9 record and 3.59 ERA, Buehrle will be in high demand. But speaking after the game, Buehrle didnt sound like he was closing the door on returning to the South Side. If anything, he was almost begging the White Sox to leave it open.

"Obviously doing this for 13, 14 years of my life, this is all I know. It's kinda hard to think otherwise. It's hard to go home in this offseason and think I'm going to go to spring training somewhere else," Buehrle said. "Deep down inside, I'd love to be back, but reality might sink in. It just depends on which way they go.

With two games still on the schedule, Guillen couldnt wait to leave.

Buehrles different. He says he wants to be here, and since hes an avid dog lover, theres really only one word that needs to be said: Stay.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017

Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017

Rick Hahn said Thursday he won’t divulge which direction the White Sox would head this offseason out of respect to his current players and staff.

But once the offseason begins, Hahn said it would quickly become evident what the White Sox front office has in mind. Roughly a month after his comments about being “mired in mediocrity,” the White Sox general manager said that he, executive vice president Kenny Williams and club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf are still mulling their options and open to all. Hahn also strongly denied recent reports that a divided front office prevented the start of a rebuild at the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, describing them as “tired.”

“The frustrating thing is it seems every few months we need to have this same conversation,” Hahn said. “The fact of the matter is I have no idea where an unnamed random report of any discord at the deadline came from. It’s simply untrue. There was no trade or direction of whatever it was described as vetoed, so to speak, at the deadline.

“We are of a similar mindset as to how best to proceed. We’ve had a number of conversations, both Kenny and I, as well as Kenny, Jerry and I, about the best way to approach the offseason and what we want to accomplish. And once the offseason rolls around we will start executing that plan.”

“It’s just, frankly, tired news and repetitive and there’s nothing there. None of us would be here doing what we do if we didn’t feel we were set up to have the potential for success.”

As for the most successful route to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Hahn wouldn’t yet commit to a plan. Hahn said the club would also address all questions about its roster and coaching staff after the season, which ends on Oct. 2.

With 36 games remaining after Thursday, the White Sox appear on pace for a fourth straight losing season.

[MORE: White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season]

While the team has many of the top-tier pieces necessary to compete, its lack of depth continues to be a critical issue holding back the franchise. Injuries in the bullpen and outfield and the unexpected retirement of Adam LaRoche forced many part-time players or inexperienced pitchers into key roles. With a farm system still short on talent, the White Sox would likely need a serious cash infusion to fill in some of those holes in order to compete in 2017. Or, they could begin a rebuilding process and replenish their farm system by unloading some of their talented, affordable players.

Either way, Hahn isn’t ready to talk shop.

“We have a sense of what we want to do,” Hahn said. “Frankly, regardless of which direction it is — full rebuild or add on — we’re still in the middle of the season.

“If I were to say we’re going to do a full rebuild that’s disrespectful to what they’re trying to accomplish. To the other extreme, if I were to say we’re going to fight and go for it and plug the holes it begs the question, ‘Where are the holes?’ and that’s disrespectful to the guys in the clubhouse. It’s just not the time to be laying out offseason plans. We’re working on it, exploring a lot of angles internally trying to come up with priorities so we can hit the ground running when the time is appropriate.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

When he spoke about the team’s trade deadline plans July 21, Hahn said the White Sox had only ruled out short-term acquisitions, but remained open to all options. He said the idea of trading away Chris Sale or Jose Quintana seemed “extreme,” in part because competing teams wouldn’t deal players helping them in their playoff chases; that they’d have a better market in the offseason.

Hahn said Thursday the White Sox remain open-minded. When reminded that the White Sox have operated in an aggressive manner under Reinsdorf, Hahn agreed. But he also noted that the White Sox haven’t been happy with their recent performances and left the door open for a rebuild.

“OK, but there also comes a point where there is a level of frustration with the way things have played out over the last couple of years,” Hahn said. “There are different approaches and again, I’m not saying (a rebuild) is the route we’re going to go. But I assure you there is absolute openness from Jerry, Kenny, myself. Everyone in that front office is looking for the best path to get us on an extended period of success, even if that involves a short-term step-back.”

White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season

White Sox rule Austin Jackson, Matt Davidson out for season

Austin Jackson and Matt Davidson are officially done for the season.

Meanwhile, the White Sox still remain hopeful that Brett Lawrie is on the mend after a second MRI.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday that Jackson, who had surgery June 10 to repair a medial meniscus tear in left knee, and Davidson, who had surgery after he fractured his right foot, won’t return this season.

“Austin is progressing, but it unfortunately it’s been a slow pace,” Hahn said. “He has not taken baseball activities. I wouldn’t expect him back this season.”

Jackson hit .254/.318/.343 with 18 RBIs in 203 plate appearances before he suffered the injury.

At the time of Jackson’s injury, Hahn didn’t think it would end his season. But, Hahn did say it would take at least six weeks before they could re-evaluate Jackson’s knee post-surgery and get a better determination of when he might return. Jackson’s re-evaluation was pushed back a few days from the six-week mark and the White Sox made it clear they weren’t optimistic about him returning.

Davidson went 1-for-2 with an RBI before he broke his foot running the bases in his first game of the season.

“(I) would not expect (Davidson) either. It was a pretty bad fracture. It’s progressing and he’s hitting the early milestones. There just isn’t enough time for either of those two.”

Lawrie, who has been on the disabled list since July 22, had a second MRI earlier this week and is being treated, Hahn said.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Manager Robin Ventura has been adamant all along that Lawrie’s injury was tricky to diagnose. What began as a strained hamstring and later was thought to be a quad injury has been reclassified as a knee and calf issue. Hahn said the MRI showed the area is structurally sound.

“He received some medicine in the joint there,” Hahn said. “We’re let that work for a couple of days and we’ll ramp up the activity and see how it goes. No specific time frame.”

Miguel Gonzalez will participate in one more bullpen — possibly a simulated game — before he starts a rehab assignment, Ventura said. Gonzalez is on the DL with a strained right groin.

James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields, White Sox lose to Phillies and snap winning streak

James Shields allowed his fewest runs in a month on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a loss.

Shields yielded two more home runs in six innings and his offense couldn’t keep pace as the White Sox lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 in front of 15,630 at U.S. Cellular Field. Shields gave up four earned runs and seven hits. Dioner Navarro homered in the loss, which snapped a three-game White Sox winning streak.

“We’ve seen better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “(Shields) got to two strikes, two outs and gave up a couple there and that’s tough. The homer to left, that’s just one you get in this ballpark. The biggest one, for him, mistake-wise was the homer to Joseph. I think that’s the one that he wants back. But as far as going out there and getting us to a point, he’s still got room to improve on. But he got through it.”

The six innings pitched marks the most by Shields since July 26.

In between, Shields allowed 28 runs (27 earned) and 33 hits in 14 innings over four turns, good for a 17.36 ERA.

He fell behind 3-0 by the third inning before he settled in and retired nine of 11 batters. The Phillies pieced together a two-out rally in the second inning to go up two runs as Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis doubled with an Aaron Altherr singled sandwiched in between.

Cesar Hernandez opened the third inning with a solo homer just inside the left-field foul pole.

Joseph also homered with two outs in the sixth inning to put Philadelphia ahead 4-0.

Shields has allowed 31 homers in 143 innings this season, including 22 in 75.2 innings for the White Sox. Eleven of those have come in his last four starts.

He walked none and struck out six.

“I think the only pitch I made a mistake on was that last one, the home run in the sixth inning there,” Shields said. “The ball kind of slipped out of my hand a little bit and kind of left it over the plate. Other than that I felt good with my location tonight. I was hitting my spots consistently. They were getting hits here and there. That’s part of it. One of the positives things, I didn’t walk anyone and I was getting some swings and misses. But we have to move on and move forward and build off that.”

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox didn’t have much success against Phillies starting pitcher Jerod Eickhoff, who retired the first nine batters he faced. Avisail Garcia led off the sixth inning with a single and Navarro belted a two-run homer to right to make it a 4-2 game.

Eickhoff limited the White Sox to two runs and four hits in six innings.

Garcia kept the White Sox alive with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning. But Jeanmar Gomez retired Navarro with runners on the corners to end the threat.

“Until Dio hit the homer there wasn’t much going for us,” Ventura said. “We got one --- I think Adam was the one that breaks it up and gets it going. But (Eickoff) was tough on us. A great curveball. That’s the biggest thing that sticks out. When he got in trouble, that curveball was the pitch for us. After that, it just wasn’t a good night offensively. I don’t think we swung it that well.”