TORONTO -- Though they never have faced each other, Paul Konerko knows the book on former teammate Mark Buehrle is wide open and anything is possible.
The veteran first baseman believes the pitcher --- an 11-year veteran of the South Side before he left via free agency before last season --- will bring his unique brand of humor to their first-ever showdown Monday night at the Rogers Centre when the White Sox open a four-game series at the Toronto Blue Jays.
And when he says he expects anything, Konerko truly means just that.
“You got to be ready,” Konerko said. “He might throw an eephus pitch or something like that. He’s not afraid to screw around out there.”
Under manager Robin Ventura’s edict, White Sox players have made a habit of not looking ahead. They have done a good job of staying in line with the one-day-at-a-time mantra preached by Ventura’s staff.
But in special cases -- like one where a White Sox hero whose credentials include a World Series ring, a perfect game and a no-hitter is on the mound -- even Ventura can’t help but look ahead.
“A lot of guys know him,” Ventura said. “You respect what he’s done and what he meant to this organization. But you definitely want to win the game.”
A 38th-round pick of the White Sox in 1998, Buehrle’s 161 wins are the fifth-most in franchise history. He’s now in his second season away from the club after he was allowed to depart via free agency after 2011 and signed a four-year, $58-million deal with the Miami Marlins. The left-hander went 13-13 with a 3.74 ERA last season but was dealt to the Blue Jays this offseason after Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria slashed payroll by $73 million.
One of five Miami players traded to the Blue Jays in November in an infamous 12-player exchange, Buerhle has a 10.24 ERA in his first two starts. Although he expects the meeting to be strange, Buehrle told CSNChicago.com on Sunday he’s all about task at hand.
“I’ve got a lot of friends on the team, but at the same time I gotta try to get back on track and try and pitch good,” Buehrle said. “Obviously it’s going to be weird seeing some of those guys in the batter’s box and going up against them, but I’m trying to get them out just like how they’re going to be trying to get hits off me.”
Still, their previous relationship is bound to attach emotion to the event.
Konerko has been effusive in his praise of Buehrle, whom he called one of his best teammates ever. He has lauded the pitcher for being a guy in the clubhouse who everyone rallies around. And Konerko knows Buerhle well.
When asked for the book on Buehrle, Konerko said there “really is no book” except he normally brings a lighter side to big moments.
He expects nothing will be different on Monday.
“I know Mark,” Konerko said. “He’ll have fun with it. It will be tough to keep a straight face for I’m sure a pitch or two.”