White Sox make Buehrle Opening Day starter

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.

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."