White Sox

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.

Luis Robert checks in at No. 3 in MLB Pipeline's final Top 100 Prospects list of 2019

Luis Robert checks in at No. 3 in MLB Pipeline's final Top 100 Prospects list of 2019

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Luis Robert is generating year-end buzz after a phenomenal 2019 campaign.

Three days after the official conclusion of the 2019 Minor League Baseball season, MLB Pipeline released its final Top 100 Prospects list of the year and, as expected, Robert made an appearance near the top. He didn’t quite nab the first spot, though. Despite taking home MLB Pipeline’s minor league hitter of the year award just over two weeks ago, Robert checked in at No. 3 in the site’s rankings, trailing only Dodgers middle infielder Gavin Lux (No. 2) and Tampa Bay shortstop Wander Franco (No. 1). 

Lux and Robert have vied for a number of Minor League accolades. In addition to being named Pipeline’s minor league hitter of the year, Robert also recently took home USA Today’s minor league player of the year. Lux edged Robert out for Baseball America’s MiLB player of the year, though, and now finishes one spot ahead of him in Pipeline’s Top 100. Franco spent 2019, his age-18 season, split between Class-A and High-A ball, slashing .327/.398/.487 with 18 stolen bases in 114 games between the two.

Robert jumped from No. 5 to No. 3 in the latest update to the Top 100, and this time last year was ranked No. 44. A season slashing .328/.376/.624 (1.001 OPS) with 32 home runs, 96 RBIs and 36 stolen bases will do that.

Michael Kopech (No. 18), who missed the 2019 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last September, joins Robert in representing the White Sox in the top 20. Additionally, Robert and 22-year-old starting pitching prospect Jonathan Stiever were named the White Sox's 'Prospects of the Year' by MLB Pipeline.

News like this - and there has been an abundance of it recently - only adds to a burgeoning sense of optimism for the future around the White Sox and its fanbase. Now, to count the days until the 2020 season, and Robert’s eventual call-up.

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After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

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USA TODAY

After White Sox bullpen shuts down Twins, who's in and who's out for 2020?

The White Sox bullpen did a splendid job Wednesday night.

A “bullpen day” against the Minnesota Twins’ high-powered offense had potential disaster written all over it. Instead, Ivan Nova and a parade of relievers held those Twins hitless through five innings and to just one run in a sweep-avoiding win.

It’s actually the second time a “bullpen day” went better than expected against one of the best teams in baseball, Wednesday’s effort joining the one back in May against the Houston Astros. The White Sox lost that night but gave up just three runs to the kings of the AL West.

While nearly every pitcher that trotted out from the visitors’ bullpen Wednesday night in Minnesota pitched well, it doesn’t mean that the White Sox will carry this exact unit into a 2020 season that could be one in which they make the long awaited transition from rebuilding to contending.

Certainly Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer have been among the many bright spots for the White Sox this season, and the retention of both at the trade deadline provides confidence in what the back end of the bullpen can be in a potentially contending season. But while the eighth- and ninth-inning jobs are easily projected, what does the rest of the White Sox bullpen look like heading into 2020?

While starting pitcher is definitely on the winter wish list for Rick Hahn’s front office, it would be no shock to see relief pitching get addressed, too. It’s hard to predict which of the tons of relievers could wind up in a White Sox uniform before the team heads to Arizona for spring training. But we can try to guess at the fortunes of the relief arms currently on the roster, many of whom appeared in Wednesday night’s game.

Late-inning arms for 2020

Even if the White Sox make no additions to their bullpen this winter, the back end is pretty easy to project.

Colome has one more year of team control after being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners last winter. He’s been allowing more base runners as the season has wound down — including a walk-off homer to Omar Narvaez, the guy he was traded for, last weekend in Seattle — but he’ll finish the campaign with excellent numbers, still having blown only one save. That’s the best save percentage in baseball. He’s got 124 saves over the last four seasons.

Bummer, meanwhile, has emerged from a host of internal candidates to grab a pretty tight hold on the eighth-inning job. He has a 2.31 ERA on the season with a week and a half to play, and he’s a guy who could be a back-end reliever and a potential closer for years to come.

As for other late-inning guys, Jimmy Cordero seems to be a diamond in the rough uncovered in season. He’s got a 3.34 ERA since joining the White Sox and has been an oft-used arm by Rick Renteria. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the White Sox put even more high-leverage situations on his plate next season.

Evan Marshall, too, figures to be back next season. He was another quality addition to the ‘pen, and he’s actually been better in the second half, with a 2.59 ERA since the All-Star break compared to the still-very-good 2.86 ERA before it.

Is that a fearsome foursome at the back end of a contending bullpen? Certainly all four of those guys have been good to very good this season. The White Sox would probably express a great deal of confidence in that quartet, but adding another late-inning arm to that mix in free agency would make that confidence level even higher.

What do you do with these guys?

If those four are very likely to be in key spots in the 2020 bullpen, what about some of the guys’ whose futures aren’t so obvious?

Jace Fry threw 1.2 innings without giving up a run Wednesday, dropping his season ERA to 4.96. That’s not a very pretty number, and there have been stretches this season that haven’t been very pretty, either. In a five-outing span in late May and early June, he walked six of the 19 batters he faced and gave up four earned runs in just 3.1 innings. Over a 13-outing span in August and September, Fry gave up 12 runs in 10.2 innings, walking nine and giving up 13 hits to the 53 batters he faced. But the White Sox love Fry’s potential. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him a part of the Opening Day relief corps. But if the White Sox are in contention mode, how long could they afford his inconsistencies?

Kelvin Herrera is almost certain to be back in 2020, considering the White Sox inked him to a two-year deal last offseason. But he’s going to need to improve dramatically from what he did in his first campaign on the South Side. He’s got a 6.51 ERA right now in 53 appearances. That’s obviously not good enough, and the White Sox will be hoping for something close to the kind of guy who mowed them down when he was a key piece on those back-to-back World Series teams for the Kansas City Royals. Another season removed from the foot injury that ended his 2018 season early ought to help.

Have the White Sox seen enough of Jose Ruiz and Carson Fulmer? Again, these guys have upside the team is excited about. Ruiz can throw the ball pretty hard, and Fulmer is a former top-10 draft pick. But the results have not been good, to say the least. Ruiz has a 5.87 ERA in 39 games. Fulmer, who threw 2.1 scoreless innings Wednesday, has a 5.33 ERA in 18 big league appearances. If there are free-agent additions to be had, these two could be squeezed out of the picture. But for right now, the White Sox aren’t done with them just yet.

Where art thou, minor leaguers?

If you cast your mind back to last season, you’ll remember a bunch of young arms that looked like candidates for the bullpen of the future. For various reasons, those guys didn’t do much impressing in 2019.

Injuries are to blame in certain cases. Ryan Burr was one of the many White Sox pitchers to have Tommy John surgery this season, wiping out an audition of a 2019 season for him. Ian Hamilton was similarly knocked out for the year with a pair of freak injuries. He was hurt in a car accident during spring training and then suffered a number of grisly facial injuries when he was struck with a foul ball while sitting in the dugout at Triple-A Charlotte.

Under-performance struck, too. Caleb Frare only made 31 combined appearances between the majors and Charlotte, but he posted a 10.13 ERA at the big league level and a 7.66 ERA with the Knights. Thyago Vieira had a 10.29 ERA in six major league games and a 6.27 ERA in 39 games at Triple-A.

But all four remain on the 40-man roster, for now.

Then there are three other guys who were highly thought of a year ago who didn’t help their cases for a major league promotion. Zack Burdi, the former first-round pick, was routinely rocked pitching in only 20 games at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham, with a 6.75 ERA in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Tyler Johnson had good numbers but only pitched 31.1 innings in 22 games. Zach Thompson had a 5.23 ERA in his 45 appearances with Brimingham and Charlotte.

None of that screams must-include pieces of the 2020 major league bullpen. A lot can change between now and Opening Day, as well as now and any later point in the season when reinforcements to the relief corps could still make a big difference. But as we stand here right now, it’s hard to say any of these guys will be in the Opening Day ‘pen.

Unlikely bullpen arms?

The other internal options for relief arms in 2020 might come from an unlikely spot: the starting rotation.

There are only five spots on the 2020 starting staff, and Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease figure to have three of them spoken for. The White Sox will make at least one offseason addition, speaking for a fourth spot. And despite a bumpy 2019 season, it would not be surprising to see Reynaldo Lopez in that rotation, too, come Opening Day.

That doesn’t mean he’ll stay there all season, though. A contending White Sox team might not be able to put up with the kind of inconsistent results Lopez has delivered in 2019. Similarly, there’s a possibility Kopech could have to start the season in the minor leagues if the White Sox think he needs more time to work himself into game shape following a long layoff while recovering from his Tommy John surgery. Whether it’s multiple offseason acquisitions or simply Kopech returning and claiming a spot, Lopez might be squeezed out, in which case the bullpen would be a possible destination for him. The White Sox see him as a starter now, but there’s no reason that a squeezed-out Lopez, should it happen, couldn’t still help the team from the ‘pen.

Also, what becomes of other Tommy John recoverers when they return to full health? What happens if Carlos Rodon or Dane Dunning or Jimmy Lambert is available late in the year? Could they help in the bullpen even if they’re destined to be long-term starters? Maybe. It’s just speculation, but time will tell.

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