White Sox

As MLB addresses long game times, why Mark Buehrle’s zippy pace is worth highlighting

As MLB addresses long game times, why Mark Buehrle’s zippy pace is worth highlighting

Sometime in the future, near or far, Major League Baseball will probably begin using a pitch clock to penalize sluggish hitters and pitchers.

The sport without a clock will, someday, have a clock. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian offered that as one of his predictions for what baseball could look like 20 years from now, which would be one of Rob Manfred’s signature reforms as commissioner. 

This kind of change wouldn’t be necessary, though, if more pitchers were like Mark Buehrle. 

“Buehrle was hyper,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “He wanted to go, go, go.”

No pitcher since 2007 — when Pitch F/X began calculating “pace” — worked faster than Buehrle, who averaged 16.7 seconds between pitches. Only 56 qualified pitchers since 2007 can be considered to work “fast,” i.e. with an average time between pitches of 20 seconds or fewer (it’s a list that includes fellow former White Sox left-handers John Danks and Chris Sale). And that’s only 12 percent of the 473 qualified pitchers in the last decade.

Buehrle’s 99-minute complete game against the Seattle Mariners in 2005 still is the only nine-inning contest to be completed in fewer than 100 minutes since 1984. There was that memorable 1:53 duel with Mark Mulder and the Oakland A’s in 2003, and both Buehrle’s perfect game and no hitter lasted 2:03. 

Of course, Buehrle didn’t just work quick, he pitched well while zipping through innings. Buehrle finished his career with a 3.81 ERA, made four All-Star teams and threw at least 200 innings every year from 2001-2014. He had a .572 career winning percentage, too, so Cooper knew about Buehrle would give the White Sox a chance to win in about six out of every 10 starts.

“But you also know it’s going to be about two hours and 10 minutes, too,” Cooper added. 

A given game’s length isn’t all about the pace of the pitcher, of course. Batters can slow things down by stepping out of the box and calling for time, and games can feel like a slog with replay delays and mid-inning pitching changes. 

Still, how quickly a pitcher works usually dictates the pace of a game and how long it takes to be completed. Cooper wondered why hitters didn’t step out more against Buehrle to disrupt his rhythm, but perhaps the answer is that everyone on the field gets caught up in the quick pace set by the pitcher. 

“Everybody tells me they were so happy when I pitched for a quick game, but every time I was on the bench in between my starts, it was a 3, 3 1/2 hour game and it wasn't very much fun,” Buehrle said. “I think some of these games do get too long. Pitchers take their time, hitters get out of the box. I don't get all that but that's just the way I worked. I just grabbed the ball and went.”

Maybe adding a pitch clock with penalties affecting the count will force pitchers and hitters to find a quicker rhythm. That was one of the hallmarks of Buehrle’s career, and those snappy starts are one of the reasons why No. 56 was such a popular player on 35th and Shields. 

Former manager Ozzie Guillen, in summing up Buehrle's mentality, also offered some free advice for fixing baseball's pace-of-play problem: “Just throw the ball, get people out and have fun.” 

White Sox say Carlos Rodon is a long-term starter, but his 2020 role is far less certain

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USA TODAY

White Sox say Carlos Rodon is a long-term starter, but his 2020 role is far less certain

Carlos Rodon does not want to move to the bullpen.

“In my heart, I think I’m a starter,” Rodon told MLB.com’s Scott Merkin earlier this month. “I’m not a bullpen arm.”

In the long term, his team very much agrees with him. The White Sox view Rodon as a member of their rotation in 2021, the next season in which he’s scheduled to pitch a full complement of games, after his recovery from Tommy John surgery is complete sometime in the middle of this season.

“We view Carlos, long term, as a starter,” Rick Hahn said last week. “Certainly a year from right now, I expect to be talking about him as one of the five guys in the rotation.”

But what does that mean for Rodon in 2020?

“Over the course of this season, let him finish up his rehab, let us see where we’re at as a starting rotation, let us see where he is from a stamina and endurance standpoint and how we project him the rest of the year, and then we’ll figure out how to best bring him back to the big leagues,” Hahn said. “Long term, Carlos Rodon’s a starter. Let’s get him through his rehab, and then we’ll talk about his role for the balance of the 2020 season.

“I also know Carlos has said repeatedly, whatever we want him to do to help the team win, he’s there for. So long term, starter. Short term, we’ll figure out once he’s healthy where he’s at.”

Rodon won’t be back from his recovery until summer, so don’t worry about trying to wedge him into the rotation for the first few months of the campaign. The Opening Day starting five seems well set, even while Lucas Giolito and Gio Gonzalez work their way back from nagging springtime issues: Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Reynaldo Lopez, Dylan Cease and Gonzalez.

Michael Kopech will be waiting in the wings, the White Sox opting to slow-play his return to a big league mound after his own Tommy John recovery. He hasn’t pitched in any game above instructional league since September 2018, and logic points to him starting this season at Triple-A Charlotte until he’s ready to return to the bigs in a way that allows him to pitch meaningful games in September.

That’s when the White Sox hope to be in the middle — or, in a perfect situation, far out in front of — a playoff race. And Rodon could certainly factor into the chase for the first bout of October baseball on the South Side in more than a decade.

“I don’t know what’s in store,” Rodon told Our Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I’m just trying to be ready by whenever they need me ready. There’s a lot of things that go into making a move. Make a move for me, you’ve still got to take somebody off the 40-man, send someone down. There’s a whole lot of correlating moves to that. What the timing is for that, I don’t know. Maybe the guys are doing well and I’m not needed yet.

“Whatever it may be. I don’t know what it is. But when it’s my time, I’ll be ready to go, I know that.”

Rodon can throw pretty darn hard, something that intrigues those wanting to stick him in the ‘pen and call on him to get a few batters out rather than soldier through six or seven innings. But White Sox fans are plenty familiar with what he can be when he’s healthy and at his best, the kind of starter who can mow down opposing lineups.

Either role would be a valuable midseason addition for a team in the playoff hunt. You’d have to figure that this is a bridge the White Sox will cross when they come to it, meaning that Rodon will likely be deployed in whatever area he’s needed.

A wrinkle in all this is that Rodon is not under the same kind of long-term team control as many of his teammates. He’s slated to hit free agency after the 2021 season, giving him a shorter amount of time to show he deserves to be part of the White Sox long-term planning.

Though with the team that drafted him on the verge of making the transition from rebuilding mode to contending mode, Rodon said he wants to be a part of the glory days after living through the darkest days of the rebuild.

“I definitely don’t want to go anywhere,” he said. “I’ve gone through the losses. It’d be so rewarding to chip away slowly, maybe make a playoff game, make a wild card game, who knows. I don’t know what’s in store for our future. But start there. It would be super rewarding for me.”

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Zack Burdi feeling positive after making second return from a major injury

Zack Burdi feeling positive after making second return from a major injury

When Zack Burdi was drafted, he was expected to be a fast riser in the White Sox system, but injuries have derailed that.

Burdi made it to Triple-A in 2016, just a couple months after he was drafted, and held his own in nine appearances for the Charlotte Knights. He returned to Charlotte in 2017, but Tommy John surgery ended his season and cost him almost all of 2018.

Last year, he returned, this time reaching Double-A Birmingham before a knee injury ended his season in June. Burdi last pitched in a competitive game on June 20.

On Tuesday, he pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants in a spring training game. Burdi’s return to the mound included a first-pitch flyout and two groundouts to second. He talked to reporters on Wednesday about his outing.

“To go out there and have a good Day 1 was huge,” Burdi said. “The last thing you want is to go out there after eight months and not do well and kind of double check yourself and all the work you’ve been putting in. To go out there and to have success and to see all that work come to light was truly good.”


Reports from Arizona had Burdi in the mid 90s, which is a bit off his previous consistent fastball velocity in the high 90s and reaching 100 mph. His velocity was down last year when he returned, but seeing it in the mid 90s in his first outing back this time around is reasonable.


Burdi also showed off his wicker slider, getting a couple swinging strikes on Kean Wong.

The White Sox will likely stay conservative with the 24-year-old right-handed reliever to start the year. If he is healthy and ready to go, he could be a midseason addition to the bullpen.

“My first outing in eight months there was a lot of nerves coming back for sure and I was anxious in the bullpen,” Burdi told reporters in Arizona. “I was walking around a lot, but I was excited. I’ve been working really hard the last couple months on mechanics and trying to get that right for the season so to go out there and see that be put to work was really nice for sure.”


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