CHICAGO (AP) — Mark Buehrle came out to warm up for the eighth inning, looked around and saw there was no ball on the mound and no fielders surrounding him. Surprised? Sort of.
It was all part of a salute pre-planned by teammate Paul Konerko and acting manger Don Cooper to make sure the durable and popular left-hander got the spotlight on what might have been his final game for the Chicago White Sox.
Buehrle threw seven shutout innings Tuesday night and Chicago beat The Toronto Blue Jays 2-1. Eligible for free agency following the season, he’s not sure where he’ll land in 2012. But he’ll certainly remember the tribute, from both his teammates and the fans.
“Back of my mind I kind of figured they were going to do something in between the innings, or get an out and pull me,” Buehrle said.
“I actually thought I’d go out and do my warmup pitches and he’d come out and get me. I’m looking for the ball and I look back and Coop’s already coming out with it in his hands. It kinda surprised me.”
As he walked off the field after Cooper pulled him, Buehrle waved to the fans who were chanting his name and hugged his teammates as they headed to the field. Several minutes later, Buehrle emerged again from the dugout for a curtain call, taking off his cap and extending his arms toward the small but spirited crowd announced at 23,934.
“Paulie (Konerko) was pushing me out there and he was like ‘They’re calling for you.’ I’ve never had a curtain call.” Buehrle said. “Just hugging the teammates, hugging everybody that’s been involved in my career, it got kind of emotional there toward the end.”
The White Sox played their first game since Ozzie Guillen was released from his contract after Monday night’s victory over the Blue Jays.
Cooper enjoyed the beginning of his short stint as manager. He also went to the bullpen pregame to watch Buehrle warm up and made sure to give him a few verbal jabs.
“I did make a joke to him when he was playing catch, warming up, fooling around, saying ‘This is unbelievable. One career ending, and another one starting,'” Cooper said.
Buehrle (13-9) allowed six hits, struck out six and walked none.
General manager Ken Williams said before Tuesday night’s game he didn’t know yet whether Buehrle fit into the team’s future plans. Buehrle is 161-119 in his career.
The fast-working lefty has a no-hitter and a perfect game on his White Sox resume from a career that began in 2000. He reached the 200-inning mark for the 11th straight season when he got the second out of the second inning, and he’s had at least 10 wins and 30 starts every season since 2001.
Buehrle would love to return, but knows the White Sox are in store for big changes following this disappointing season, Guillen’s departure and the failure of some highly paid players like Adam Dunn and Alex Rios to produce this season.
He said he didn’t know if he’d pitched his final game for the team that drafted him in 38th round in 1998.
“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. They have a lot of decisions to make, a lot of pieces they can trade, a lot of guys they can get back.”
Tyler Flowers hit a solo homer, his fifth of the season, off Henderson Alvarez (1-3) in the second. A.J. Pierzynski singled home a run in the sixth.
Toronto’s Mike McCoy greeted Jesse Crain with his second homer to cut the lead to 2-1.
Chris Sale got the final five outs to earn his eighth save in nine chances.
Alvarez allowed seven hits in seven innings.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell also lauded Buehrle.
“Tonight was a game he’s probably pitched many, many times with his career with the White Sox. A lot of zeros. A quick paced game. A lot of strikes,” Farrell said.
“Just a true professional who went about his work as we’ve seen over a course of a number of years. Just an outstanding game on his part.”
Dunn went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts, dropping his average to .159 with a franchise-record 177 strikeouts. Dunn needs six plate appearances in the final game to finish with the worst qualifying batting average in modern big league history, surpassing Rob Deer’s .179 mark in 1991.
NOTES: White Sox RHP Phil Humber (9-9) makes his 28th appearance and 26th start in Wednesday’s season finale. Humber is 1-5 with a 6.15 ERA in his last 10 starts. He is 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in three career games, including a start, against the Blue Jays. Toronto counters with Brandon Morrow (11-11), whose 10.18 strikeouts per nine innings leads the American League. … Omar Vizquel, at age 44, said he’d like to play another season, but is not sure if he’ll try to follow Guillen to Florida – should he become Marlins manager – or maybe stick with the White Sox another season. He did attend Guillen’s final news conference Monday to show support for his fellow Venezuelan. … Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion has an inflamed nerve in his left shoulder but no structural problems. He has not been ruled out of Wednesday’s season finale. … Pierzynski reached 1,000 innings caught for the 10th straight season. … Dave Nicholson struck out 175 times for the White Sox in 1963.
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