Buehrle named Opening Day starter
Left-hander would set team record with eighth such start
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After announcing Mark Buehrle as his Opening Day starter on the Sunday afternoon when White Sox pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch, Ozzie Guillen made one request of his left-handed hurling standout.
"I hope he doesn't throw another no-hitter," said the White Sox manager with a laugh of Buehrle, who will set a White Sox franchise record with his eighth Opening Day start. "Please don't."
Buehrle threw his first no-hitter in 2007 against the Rangers and then was perfect against Tampa Bay on July 23 of last season. Those are the only two years when the White Sox have finished under .500 during Guillen's managerial regime.
But this laid-back, unaffected pitcher certainly has done more than simply draw national raves on these two occasions or post the Major League record for most consecutive batters retired at 45 to deserve the Opening Day nod over Jake Peavy. Buehrle, 30, begins his 11th season with the White Sox and 10th as a starting pitcher.
In each of the last nine years, Buehrle has produced double-digit victories, at least 200 innings pitched and at least 30 starts. He's had only two years during that entire stretch where his ERA surpassed 4.00.
As good as Buehrle has been on the mound, holding a career mark of 135-97, he's even better as a clubhouse leader and influence on younger starters such as John Danks. That characterization certainly is no slight toward Peavy, who will be the White Sox No. 2 starter, and figures to be an equally positive influence among the staff.
It's Buehrle's longevity and his status as the pitching face of the franchise seemingly giving him the Opening Day nod for more than just Guillen. Actually, that Opening Day support for Buehrle includes Peavy.
"Mark is very deserving of that and he's owed that," said Peavy, who along with Buehrle, didn't know of Guillen's decision until after it was announced. "I was hoping that would be the case and I'm glad that's going to be the case. I don't really think it matters because we're going to be throwing a No. 1 at you a lot of nights. We're capable of doing some good things."
"They are both deserving," said Danks, who figures to be the rotation's No. 3 starter, although Guillen would not commit on Sunday past the first two. "I'm going to say Buehrle because he's been here the longest. That's meant as no disrespect to Jake. But Buehrle has been here a long time."
Neither Buehrle nor Peavy campaigned for this trip to the mound set for April 5 against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field. Buehrle admitted it would mean a great deal to him to have the Opening Day start record, currently shared with Billy Pierce (1951-52, 1954, 1956-59), and Peavy is considered to have the stuff making him the staff ace.
Individual honors are not what define these two All-Star hurlers. White Sox general manager Ken Williams understands the Opening Day start is something Buehrle will appreciate probably after his career is done, but in the scheme of the 2010 season, it's just one of 32 or 33 starts for Buehrle in helping the team reach its ultimate goal.
"We are just trying to go out and win," Williams said. "Buehrle and Ozzie don't care about any of that stuff. So, I'm comfortable any way Ozzie goes."
Jose Contreras has been the only other Opening Day starter for the White Sox over the last nine years, making that start in 2007 against the Indians at home. Contreras had far better numbers than Buehrle in 2006, when Buehrle finished below .500 (12-13, 4.99 ERA) for the only season of his illustrious career.
Coming off a 13-10 effort in 2009, with the perfect game and an All-Star appearance on the resume, it only makes sense Buehrle gets a chance to take another step in White Sox lore on Opening Day. Just avoid the extra theatrics of a no-hitter, per Guillen's request.
"He's deserving," said Peavy of Buehrle. "I firmly believe he has been the face of the franchise for a long time and should be. I'm excited to be part of a staff he's on."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.