SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — He didn't like seeing Mark Buerhle go in the first place, but Paul Konerko is glad his former teammate is coming back.
The legendary White Sox slugger said Monday night he's very happy for Buehrle that the club has opted to retire his No. 56 on June 24. Were the decision up to either player, Buehrle never would have signed a four-year deal with Miami after the 2011 season. The left-hander wanted to remain with the White Sox, but was allowed to leave for a $58 million deal. Never one to question moves by the front office, Konerko said at a charity event Monday night that the choice to allow Buehrle to leave still doesn't sit well with him.
"Any time I ever saw him in a different uniform, it just didn't look right," Konerko said. "I've said it before that I felt like my time with the White Sox, there's a lot of moves they can make, up top they have to make moves to see the big picture and as a player you get paid to play the game, not to question their moves.
"But the one with Mark not being there throughout his career, considering what he did when he went out after he played with us, that one I'll always not be OK with that."
Konerko and several other former teammates praised Buehrle on Monday before they participated in former All-Star reliever Jesse Crain's Swing into Spring golfing event to benefit Autism Now and Arizona RBI Baseball. Jim Thome, who played with Buehrle from 2007-09, loved playing alongside his fellow left-hander.
"He's kind of the epitome of what a true teammate is," Thome said. "He really is. He's a guy that I know if you ask a ton of his teammates, guys that know him, there's no way he will ever change. It's a credit to his mom and dad, his family and the fact that he's just as real as it gets."
Gordon Beckham said Buehrle was just as popular with his teammates as he was with the White Sox fanbase. One of the main reasons why Buehrle was beloved by his peers is because of the way he handled himself in good times and in bad.
"Usually the guys that don't take themselves so seriously are the guys that are usually liked by their teammates," Beckham said. "He was that guy. He never wanted to talk about himself. He wanted to talk about deer hunting or talk about something else besides himself.
"All he wanted to do is go out there and put his innings up and help the team win and past that, he didn't take things too hard and he didn't take them too soft. Stayed even keeled. Baseball is a game of failure he managed that really well."
Konerko, who had his number retired in 2015, would have loved if he and Buehrle had finished their careers together. The first baseman arrived a season ahead of Buehrle and they played together from 2000-11. Though Buehrle was willing to stay, the White Sox opted to extend John Danks, who was six years younger than the veteran workhouse.
Buehrle initially signed with Miami and was traded the next offseason to Toronto. That set up a series of awkward showdowns between himself and Konerko. While there was an attempt to make them fun, Konerko never enjoyed facing his old friend.
"I think if it was up to Mark, he would have finished his whole career playing with just the White Sox," Konerko said. "He would have stayed. He wanted to stay. I'm glad that he was there long enough. He deserves (the number retired). You look at the numbers — we all know Mark is a great guy and teammate — but if you look at the numbers, he deserves it."