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.

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

Single-A Winston-Salem's Zack Collins is experiencing some newfound confidence when it comes to the catch and throw.

He should.

After he made a minor technical adjustment this spring, the White Sox first-rounder has dramatically improved his results in throwing out base runners early this season. The catcher has consistently reduced his throw time to second base by a tenth of a second. After he only threw out three of 21 stolen-base attempts in 2016, Collins has nailed 10 of 14 would-be thieves early this season.

Collins' correction is due in large part to a small change he and White Sox catching coordinator John Orton made in how the catcher positions himself as he releases the ball.

"What we noticed was when he tried to be quick throwing, his ball would seem to kind of die," said. "We looked at some video compared to some other guys that throw well and he wasn't using his front side, he wasn't on his legs enough to where he could use his lower half. 

"We saw it, he made the adjustment the next day and he felt it right away. He's basically carried that into the season. He's throwing great right now. 

"It doesn't normally work that way."

It's more than just a repositioning that has helped Collins. The No. 10 overall pick of the 2016 draft changed his dietary habits in the offseason and dropped 15 pounds. Collins also did Pilates to improve his mobility behind the plate.

Those aspects along with a strong attention to detail and quiet presence behind the plate had the White Sox pleased with how Collins showed in big league camp this spring. Early in camp, Orton said it didn't matter if Collins ever grew into a standout thrower because there are so many other important aspects of catching. He listed receiving/blocking, game-calling/handling the staff and hitting ahead of throwing in terms of importance.

But then Collins added a wrinkle and made what could be a significant adjustment. Prior to making the change, Collins' glove and front shoulder were pointed toward shortstop when he released to second base on a stolen-base attempt. Orton changed Collins' positioning and now has him throwing directly at the base. Collins instantly could feel a difference and his throws have been on target more often.

"I kind of closed myself off to second base," Collins said. "I get a lot more behind my throws and a lot better accuracy. That's the biggest thing.

"It feels great. It kind of feels normal now. Before it was a little weird, like I was closing myself off too much. But it kind of feels normal now and I get a lot of pressure off my arm and obviously the throw percentage is there."

[RELATED - Fun and Fluid: Drill sharpens Yoan Moncada's defensive skills]

More important, the drastically-reduced times are there. 

Prior to making the change, Collins' throws to second base were somewhere around 2.08 to 2.10 seconds. In the first week of the season, Collins had reduced the time to 1.97 seconds and registered a 1.92 on one throw. He even posted several 1.87s in between innings.

"If you're under 2 and accurate you'll get most guys for sure," Orton said.

Collins has eliminated many attempts in the early going. He's throwing with confidence, too.
 
Recently, late in a tied game, Collins threw out a man headed to second base with a runner on third for the final out of the inning.

Winston-Salem manager Willie Harris was stunned to learn that Collins had improved from throwing out 14 percent of all base runners last season to 71 percent so far.

"Hell no I wouldn't even believe that," Harris said. "He's made some serious adjustments behind the plate.

"Collins is definitely a pro. He's going to have a very long career at the major league level. He does a lot of things right. He runs the staff. He knows when to make mound visits. He picks runners off at first, third, second."

The confidence the University of Miami product feels has carried over to social media. After Collins threw out another runner on Sunday, the team's Twitter account made a plea to Carolina League opponents to #KeepRunningOnZack. Colorado Rockies farmhand Willie Abreu, a former teammate of Collins at Miami, chimed in to inform the catcher he'd run on him all day.

Collins fired back: "You'd run on the other Zack Collins. Not the new one."

"It definitely helps and kind of gives me a little confidence behind my back knowing that I've found something that has helped me catch and throw," Collins said. "Obviously last year the numbers really weren't there during my first pro season. At the same time, I was kind of tired last year and didn't have as much behind my arm as I do now. I feel a lot better now."

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