Notes: Buehrle having early-game woes
Lefty doing anything he can to put end to first-inning troubles
CLEVELAND -- When breaking down second-half struggles from the 2006 season, Mark Buehrle previously has pointed out that he was basically a .500 pitcher if not for an 0-5 record and 11.48 ERA during the month of July.
But Buehrle's recent struggles can be pinpointed even more specifically than a 30-day period. If the first inning is removed from his past 17 starts, dating back to a July 2, 2006, effort at Wrigley Field, the left-hander reverts to his All-Star form from last year's first half and his previous five years as a starter.
The math actually isn't quite that simple. But of those 17 starts, the opposition has scored off Buehrle in the first inning on 12 occasions and has put up a total of 26 runs -- seven being delivered by the Cubs. It's a problem that Buehrle has tried to address through a couple of different physical and mental approaches.
"I've tried going out early and throwing and getting loose, and then sitting down and getting back up and throwing 15 or 20 pitches, like it's your first inning, and then going back in," Buehrle said. "I've tried to go out late and not hardly throw anything.
"Most of the time it's not in my head until I get two outs and nobody has scored and I'm like, 'I have a chance to get out of this inning,' and then, bam, something happens. I can't say I don't think about it."
Buehrle yielded Grady Sizemore's leadoff home run during the first start of 2007 against Cleveland, and then gave up three runs on three hits in Oakland during the first inning of Wednesday's series finale, although he wasn't exactly knocked around. Over the course of the entire 2006 campaign, Buehrle posted a 9.56 ERA in the opening frame, while allowing a .395 opponent's average.
Against Oakland, Buehrle quickly settled down and gave up just one hit over the next six scoreless innings. The fact that Buehrle is able to bounce back from these rough beginnings makes the opening struggles all the more perplexing to the talented hurler, who gets his next opportunity for a solid start at home Wednesday against Texas.
"In the first inning, I start thinking if all game is going to be this way," Buehrle said. "Against Oakland, I'm making my pitches, and they're getting base hits. You just roll your eyes and wonder if there's going to be a first inning where I ever throw up a zero."
"I like the way Buehrle is throwing the ball," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper added. "His aggressiveness is still there, but we are seeing some of his stuff is back."
Remember me? With the 39-degree temperature for Sunday's first pitch and left-hander C.C. Sabathia on the mound, Jim Thome, A.J. Pierzynski and Scott Podsednik received a rare break in the action. Brian Anderson started in center field, Pablo Ozuna was in left field and Gustavo Molina started at catcher, with Paul Konerko slotted in as the designated hitter and Darin Erstad making his first start as a member of the White Sox at first base.
"I've played there enough," said Erstad of moving from center field to first base, from where he made a throwing error in the second inning. "Just [go] out there, do your best, see what happens. It's different, but I've played there enough times that I know what I need to do to be ready over there. So, it's not a huge deal."
Anderson views his second start of the season with the same laid-back approach as Erstad. He refuses to get caught up in the move from a 2006 starter to a seldom-used reserve in 2007, simply focusing on the game at hand.
"If they need me, I'll be there," said Anderson, who had four at-bats entering Sunday's series finale in Cleveland. "Whatever they want to do, they can do what they want with me. I [couldn't] really care less what they do with me. I just want to go out and play."
"I wanted to get Anderson some at-bats," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen added. "If he's not playing against lefties all of a sudden, then what is he doing here?"
Around the horn: According to athletic trainer Herm Schneider, Toby Hall made 80 throws on Sunday, including some at a distance of more than 90 feet. Hall feels fine and will be re-evaluated Tuesday. His routine will be changed up, with a mid-May return still serving as the target. ... The White Sox have won five of the last seven season series from the Indians, after going 0-4-1 against Cleveland from 1995-99.
Down on the farm: Dewon Day fanned six over two innings of relief, giving the right-handed closer an amazing 16 strikeouts and one walk over 5 2/3 innings this season, as Double-A Birmingham topped Mobile by a 7-5 final Saturday. Day added his first victory to three previous saves, supported by Jason Bourgeois' four hits, including two triples, and Tom Collaro's second home run. ... Josh Fields' only hit of Saturday's game against Rochester came at a perfect time, as his two-run single broke a 14th-inning deadlock and sparked Triple-A Charlotte's 6-3 victory. Jerry Owens scored three runs and swiped two bases, giving him seven for the season, while the bullpen fanned seven over nine scoreless innings of relief. Ehren Wasserman earned the victory, allowing one hit over 2 2/3 innings. ... Daron Roberts had three hits and three RBIs during Class A Winston-Salem's 6-4 victory over Kinston.
On deck: After Monday's off-day, the White Sox welcome the Texas Rangers to U.S. Cellular Field for the season's first 7:11 p.m. CT start Tuesday night. Jon Garland faces off against Robinson Tejada, with Sammy Sosa making his first return to Chicago since leaving the Cubs. He did not play in Chicago with Baltimore in 2005.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.