On this day 18 years ago, former White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle made is MLB debut.
NBC Sports Chicago’s stats guru Chris Kamka tweeted out Buehrle’s debut.
Buehrle was just 21 years old when he got called up to the big leagues, and spent 12 seasons with the Sox. He also had stints with the Marlins and Blue Jays.
Buehrle was never an overpowering pitcher with his fastball in the high 80’s. He was also known for working quickly on the mound to keep hitters off balance.
That paid big dividends for the Sox hurler, as he’s known for tossing a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in 2007 and MLB’s 18th perfect game against the Rangers in 2009, with both of those games coming at then U.S Cellular Field.
A big highlight from the perfect game, a lot will never forget is former Sox outfielder Dwyane Wise saving Buehrle’s perfect game with a ridiculous juggling catch in center field. Ever since then, “The Catch” has been engraved on the outfield wall in left center.
Besides the no-hitter and perfect game, Buehrle knew how to field his position. Eight years ago against the Indians on Opening Day, Buehrle kicked a ground ball off his foot into foul territory and to record the out, he flipped the ball between his legs to first basemen Paul Konerko who barehanded it and got the out.
Let’s just say that play was at the top for that season.
But, as for eating up innings, Buehrle did not shy away from showing his durability.
After his rookie season, Buehrle threw over 200 innings 14 consecutive seasons. In his tenure with the Blue Jays, he was just an inning and a third away from becoming the fifth pitcher in MLB history to record over 200 innings pitched in 15 straight seasons.
In his 16 years in the MLB, Buehrle finished with 214 wins and 160 losses, with a 3.81 ERA in 518 games and 493 starts over 3,000 innings. He won the 2005 World Series with the Sox, he also won the Cy young that year.
Buehrle appeared in five All-Star games, and he won four gold gloves, along with two pitcher of the month awards.
2005 was a good year to say the least for Buehrle. He finished the year at 16-8 with a 3.12 ERA which arguably could’ve been his best season in a Sox uniform.
His number 56 was retired by the Sox last season, becoming the 12th player in Sox history to have their jersey retired.
What a career it was for number 56.
Pre-camp depth chart
1. Leonard Floyd
2. Isaiah Irving
3. Kylie Fitts
4. Elijah Norris
5. Josh Woods
1. Sam Acho
2. Aaron Lynch
3. Kasim Edebali
4. Andrew Trumbetti
1. What is Leonard Floyd’s ceiling?
Floyd’s career to this point has been limited by injuries, but in the 22 games in which he’s played he’s only averaged one sack every 97 snaps. That’s essentially what Pernell McPhee provided last year (one sack ever 96 snaps), for comparison’s sake. The point being: Not only do we not know if Floyd can stay healthy for a full year, we might not know if he can live up to the expectations for a top-10-picked pass rusher.
Coaches and Floyd felt like they fixed the reason for Floyd’s concussion issues from his rookie year, which they believed was the product of poor tackling form. Floyd’s season-ending knee injury last year was a freak, unavoidable one, to be fair — but he’s still missed a total of 10 games in his two-year career.
The Bears haven’t lost confidence in Floyd’s potential, though — if that were the case, Ryan Pace likely would’ve added more to his team’s outside linebacking corps. In the short term, Floyd is a key player to watch in Bourbonnais — impactful practices are important for building up his mental confidence in his knee. In the long term, the Bears’ bet on Floyd needs to pay off, otherwise this pass rush may not be good enough in a quarterback-centric division.
2. Can Aaron Lynch be a diamond in the rough?
Lynch had a productive rookie year under Vic Fangio in 2014, recording six sacks and looking like a nice fifth-round find for the San Francisco 49ers. After Fangio was passed over for the 49ers’ head coaching job and left for the Bears, Lynch still notched 6 1/2 sacks in 2015.
But he only appeared in 14 games in 2016 and 2017 due to conditioning and injury issues, as well as a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse. When Lynch did play, he wasn’t effective, with only 2 1/2 sacks in those 14 games covering 379 snaps.
So that’s why Lynch signed for only one year and $4 million, with only $1.25 million of his salary guaranteed, according to Spotrac. The Bears hope a fresh start and reunion with Fangio will benefit Lynch, but the prove-it nature of his contract doesn’t guarantee him anything more than a chance.
“It’s exciting getting back with Vic, you know, he drafted me,” Lynch said. “I know his defense. So being it's something I'm used to and the fresh start like I mean, I've had my ups and downs in this league and it's just nice to come here to people with open arms that believe in me so now I've just got to come here and play football so it feels amazing.”
Getting six or so sacks out of Lynch would be huge for the Bears’ defense, but those efforts begin with the 25-year-old staying healthy. That Lynch suffered hamstring and ankle injuries during the offseason program was a little concerning, even if they weren’t characterized as anything but minor knocks.
3. What are fair expectations for Kylie Fitts?
The 6-foot-4, 265 pound Fitts is an intriguing prospect in that he tested well at the NFL Combine and, before injuries limited his junior and senior years, posted an eye-popping 2015 (seven TFLs, seven sacks, 10 pass break-ups, four forced fumbles). Fitts doesn’t believe the injuries he suffered at Utah (Lisfranc/foot, ankle sprain, shoulder sprain) will linger or pop back up in his pro career, though.
“I think I got all my injuries over with,” Fitts said. “I think it’s just a run of bad luck and it’s over now. I’m healthy, feeling good now, and I’m banking on remaining healthy and playing good.”
Still, every team in the NFL passed on Fitts until the Bears used the 181st pick to draft him in April. That doesn’t mean he won’t have success — Jordan Howard was the 150th pick in the 2016 draft, after all — but he’ll head to Bourbonnais with plenty of work to do to earn a role in Fangio’s defense. The Bears’ outside linebacking depth chart may not look strong, but that doesn’t mean Fitts will waltz into a prominent role. What he does in practices and preseason games will go a long way toward determining his outlook for 2018.