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Monday, September 26, 2011
Buehrle could be another on way out

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- Mark Buehrle has delivered a World Series title, a no-hitter and a perfect game in a Chicago White Sox uniform, and on Tuesday he could be pitching in one for the last time.

Buehrle will take the mound for his final start of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays, and the outing could also mark the end of an era.

Not long after Buehrle made his appearance with the White Sox in 2000 he became a fan favorite. Being good-natured and down to earth was one thing, but Buehrle also represented the everyman as a major-league pitcher. Buehrle is a normal guy with a normal arm that has gone on to do something extraordinary.

So even if the stands aren’t completely packed Tuesday night, the cheers are expected to be as loud as ever. Despite it all, Buehrle will head into the outing with his typical low-key vibe.

“To be honest with you, I’m not trying to blow it, off but I’m not trying to make a big deal of it,” he said. “I know family and friends are. I’m getting a lot of text messages from friends saying, ‘Enjoy it, soak everything in.’ But there’s not a 100 percent chance that I’m not coming back. So I’m not going to do this big farewell tour.

“I might get emotional a little bit, but I’m not trying to because I could be back here next year and everything going on this year could be laughed off and say, ‘Why did you go through all that?’ ”

The biggest focus on the day for Buehrle, at least at the outset, is those first five outs. Once he gets them, he will reach 200 innings for the 11th consecutive season. In the process he extends his streak of double-digit victories, 30-plus starts and 200 innings to 11 consecutive seasons, the longest such streak in baseball.

After saying last week that his final start was scheduled for five innings and at that point he will be pulled from the game, Buehrle is now saying he will stay in as long as he is pitching well.

After the outing is over, he can then focus on what happens next season. Buehrle claims that he is even considering retirement if the right deal doesn’t come along this offseason, but it seems more than likely he will be pitching again in 2012. What are his odds that he will be pitching for the White Sox?

“I think they got to sit down and see which way they want to go with the team, trade some guys and go younger or try to sign some guys back,” Buehrle said. “I don’t know. I haven’t had any [contract] conversation with the White Sox. [My agent] said there hasn’t been contact by the White Sox at all.”

It doesn’t mean the White Sox have no interest. They could wait to see Buehrle’s value on the open market and try to match it. One thing is certain, though, they have never let Buehrle get this far in the free-agent process.

“I’ll kind of go home and wait for the phone to start ringing and go from there and have a conversation with your agent and your wife and talk it out and see what you want to do,” Buehrle said.

So would it be a mistake if they let him go?

“I’d like to think someone is going to miss me around here, but at the same time, everything’s got to come to an end and you got to move on, whether it’s this year, two years or five years down the road,” he said. “So they got to put somebody else in the starting rotation at some time.”

Talking about his potential final start with the White Sox didn’t make Buehrle emotional, but it remains to be seen if going through with it changes things and he gets choked up Tuesday.

“In my mind, I’m saying no, just because there’s a chance I could come back,” he said. “I told my mom, dad and wife to leave the tunnel before I come out because I’m sure they’ll be a little more emotional than I will be. Once I see them, I might be a little more, but there’s a chance I might come back and there’s no reason to be emotional and then you get emotional for nothing.”