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.

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Eloy Jimenez willing to play baseball in empty stadiums: 'I just want to play'

Playing Major League Baseball in empty stadiums feels wrong. And the thought of Eloy Jimenez playing in empty stadiums is even worse.

"I don't know. For me, playing with fans is motivating. That's why I want to play every single day hard for them and I enjoy talking to them,” Jimenez said Tuesday. “I don't know what it's going to be (like) to play without fans there.”

But it might be necessary. The ESPN report that emerged late Monday night detailed the possibility of MLB starting its season with all 30 teams in Arizona, playing in spring training stadiums and Chase Field. Teams would essentially be quarantined -- existing only in their hotels, team buses and stadiums. There would be no fans in the stands and players would not be able to stay with their families.

It seems crazy, but nothing about the COVID-19 pandemic is normal. Baseball has always been something that unites us, and frankly, any kind of baseball sounds good right now. Credit to Major League Baseball for getting creative with a possible return. If they can keep the players safe and the MLBPA is willing to play under those circumstances, then it’s worth a try.

“We're all used to playing those back-field games, chain-link fence league games,” White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito said last week. “We've done it coming up through the minor leagues. We even do it in spring training, at times. I don't think it has too much an effect. If things matter, if games matter, I think we'd be able to go and get it done with or without fans in the stadium. But I'd definitely prefer to have fans. We'll see what we'll be able to make happen."

Major League Baseball issued a statement Tuesday morning neither confirming or denying the idea of playing the season in Arizona. That’s because it’s just an idea, albeit a serious one. Serious enough that players must think about if they’re willing to do it.

"It's going to be hard because you're going to be away from your family,” Jimenez said. “100 degrees is really hot. But if that's the plan, I'm going to do it. I just want to play."

The weather is certainly a factor. Chase Field has a roof and could hold multiple games per day, but anything outdoors would have to be played at night. Even then, it will be plenty hot in the desert in the evening.

Every idea comes with a plethora of questions and there are few concrete answers in an unprecedented situation. Players will still be together in clubhouses. What happens if just one player tests positive? Will there be enough tests that MLB isn’t taking them away from people who need them more? And even if this is all possible, how long would players realistically need to get ready for the season? Jimenez said his workouts at home have been limited to “just doing a couple pushups, jump rope and hitting in the back of the yard. That's pretty much it.”

“Honestly, how long is spring training, a month and a half? Maybe (we’ll need) a month, couple weeks,” White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said last week. “Around the same time period. Let’s be realistic with pitchers’ arms. Being realistic about the situation, not forcing anything. When we’re ready to go I think they’ll make a good decision, they’ll take care of us, I think we’ll be just fine.”

A big reason why players likely would be willing to sequester themselves in Arizona – and away from their families – is because their salaries will be prorated based on how many games get played. Owners would lose out on gate revenue, but there is plenty to gain for baseball by putting real games on television, especially if it’s the only sport going.

“I just want to play baseball,” Jimenez said. “If they decide to play here (in Arizona), I'm going to enjoy it, but we want to play (a) normal regular season, like travel and all that. And play for our city, you know?”

The feeling is mutual. Of course everyone would prefer to see Eloy Jimenez playing in Chicago. But if it’s on television from Arizona, we’re still going to enjoy it. 

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Paul Konerko's lengthy season-opening slump

It might be easy to forget.

For a guy who hit a grand slam in the World Series, hit 41 home runs during the regular season and is well remembered as not only the best player on that championship team but one of the two best hitters in franchise history, Paul Konerko had a painfully slow start to the 2005 season.

#SoxRewind has rolled into mid May of that year, and Konerko is still slumping on our screens.

Obviously things turned out just fine for him, but it took Konerko a while to get into his typical swing of things in 2005. Through his first 40 games of the season, he owned a .196/.329/.420 slash line.

There were bright spots, sure, and he still had nine homers in those 40 games, right on pace for the 40 he ended up with. He had a two-homer, five-RBI game against the Blue Jays on May 7. At the end of that road trip, May 11 against the Devil Rays, he drove in a couple more with a big double.

But even those proved to be just glimpses rather than breakout performances.

What did keep Konerko afloat during that slow beginning was his ability to draw walks. He jacked his on-base percentage up to .370 by season’s end, but even at .329 during those first 40 games, he was doing a good job getting on base despite a batting average south of the Mendoza Line. Konerko walked 25 times in his first 40 games, with four multi-walk games. That included a pair of three-walk games during this stretch in May.

The tide finally turned May 18, a three-hit, three-run game against the Rangers. From that point on, over his final 118 games, he slashed .311/.390/.570. In other words, MVP-type production.

The White Sox needed their best hitter over the course of the 2005 regular season, the playoff push and the postseason. And there’s a statue at Guaranteed Rate Field that can inform you how important he was to that group.

But it wasn’t wire-to-wire success for Konerko. Thankfully for the White Sox, his teammates picked him up, finding other ways to win during the season's first month and a half. And it shows just how good he was after things finally got back to normal.

What else?

— The White Sox sure should have won this game by a lot more than they did. They started the third inning with back-to-back walks and a classic Tropicana Field catwalk single off the bat of Tadahito Iguchi. Bases loaded, nobody out. But after Aaron Rowand drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, Timo Perez got picked off trying to steal third base and Konerko struck out to end the inning. Three innings later, the White Sox started with three straight singles, including a bunt hit by Juan Uirbe to load the bases. But the next three hitters went strikeout, pop out, strikeout to go scoreless in the frame. A 5-2 win didn’t necessarily need any more runs, but it could’ve been 10-2 easily.

— Pablo Ozuna made things happen. With one out in the top of the fifth, he reached base on an infield single, busting down the line and ducking out of the way of a tag attempt at first base. He moved to second base on a one-out walk and to third on a fly out. Then he raced home on a wild pitch to break a 1-all tie. That was the first run in a four-run inning for the White Sox. Making things happen, the Ozuna way.

— Iguchi stole two bases in this game, the only multi-steal game of his big league career. Iguchi stole a career-high 15 bases in 2005, part of the 137 bags the White Sox swiped as a team that season. That number ranked fourth in the majors, behind the Angels, the Mets and these Devil Rays. Iguchi ranked third on the White Sox behind Scott Podsednik’s 59 steals and the 16 of Rowand.

— It was Robin Ventura on the call alongside Darrin Jackson as Hawk Harrelson continued to recover from his eye surgery. The all-time White Sox great became the team’s 39th manager less than seven years later, taking over after the tenure of Ozzie Guillen, who was in his second season as the South Side skipper in 2005.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 9, 2005: Despite getting to Hideo Nomo early, the White Sox had their eight-game winning streak snapped when the Devil Rays battled back against Freddy Garcia. White Sox lose, 4-2, fall to 24-8.

May 10, 2005: The White Sox had leads of 4-1 and 6-4 but blew them both. Future White Sox catcher Toby Hall hit a three-run game-tying homer off Jose Contreras at one point. But Jorge Cantu’s walk-off homer off Shingo Takatsu in the bottom of the ninth assured the Devil Rays a series win. White Sox lose, 7-6, fall to 24-9.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Wednesday, when you can catch the May 13, 2005, game against the Orioles, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Mark Buehrle goes eight innings, and Konerko leads a come-from-behind win against the O’s.

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