White Sox make Buehrle Opening Day starter

Updated: February 19, 2006, 11:20 AM ET
Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Mark Buehrle's last assignment for the Chicago White Sox was a rare one. Called out of the bullpen in the 14th inning of marathon Game 3 of the World Series, he earned the save by getting the final out.

Starting Pitcher
Chicago White Sox

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His next assignment, revealed Saturday, is much more familiar. He'll be the Opening Day starter April 2 when the White Sox start defense of their championship against Cleveland. It's the fifth straight season he's gotten that nod.

"It's nice to start Opening Day and then I can get my ring and enjoy it," Buehrle said. The White Sox's ring ceremony comes two days after the opener.

When manager Ozzie Guillen addressed the pitchers and catchers before their first workout Saturday, he told them 2005 was over and that it was time to focus on a new season.

"It's 2006 now. We're 0-0 and we're not champions anymore," Guillen said.

"We got to be hungry this year. Last year nobody picked us to do anything. Now everybody will be coming after us. I talked to the players and pitchers and said we got to get better. It's funny to say when you win 99 games, plus 11. But everybody has to go with that mentality."

Buehrle, who has pitched more than 220 innings and made more than 30 starts for five straight seasons, was an easy choice to start against the Indians, even though Jose Contreras was Chicago's best pitcher after the All-Star break last season.

Contreras went 11-2 in the second half and started all three series in the postseason, winning three games.

"Right now it's Buehrle because he's the guy who should be there," Guillen said, adding that the order for the rest of the rotation has not been set.

"I think Buehrle is consistent. With what he has done over the years, he earned the spot. Contreras is throwing the ball really well, but after Buehrle I don't know who will be there."

Guillen said he didn't think Contreras, who is not signed past this season, was bothered by trade rumors. The White Sox added Javier Vazquez and with Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy have six starters.

"We tried to get something done," Guillen said. "I think he (Contreras) feels comfortable here and I don't think things are going to bother him. Jose is a tough man. He knows what he is doing, especially where he comes from."

Buehrle, who has an 85-53 career record, decided not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic to give his arm some rest after piling up the innings. He also got married in the offseason.

"I just tried to relax as much as I can and stay away from it as much as I can. We played a month longer, I wanted to stay home and hang out with the family and friends a little bit more."

Buehrle said he began his throwing program after a two-month break, another way to give his arm some more time to rebound. He said rumors that he has a sore arm began to pop up during the World Series, but he is fine.

"I heard it during Game 4 of the World Series after I threw Game 2. I think it was because I was icing my arm and no one had ever seen that. I do it after every start and then I went out and pitched in Game 3 and everybody kinda went 'What the heck?' and then I saved it."

Buehrle, who injured his foot last spring shagging flies but rebounded to start the 2005 opener, attributes his durability to his style of pitching. He works quickly and with little stress.

"I'm not really a power pitcher. I think just going out there and using finesse and hitting my spots that's less wear and tear on your arm."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press