Soft-spoken and unassuming, White Sox lefthander Mark Buehrle has never liked being the center of attention. That helps explain why few pitchers work quicker than he does. Last year Buehrle's 35 starts lasted an average of two hours, 33 minutes, and none of his first four outings this season exceeded 2:30. Chicago's 2-1 win over Seattle on April 16, when Buehrle turned in a complete-game, 12-strikeout performance, lasted one hour, 39 minutes--the shortest game since Sept. 30, 1984.
"Buehrle's the best to play behind," says White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. "He just grabs the ball and fires it."
Playing for a manager as outspoken and opinionated as Ozzie Guillen, Buehrle won't remain unheralded much longer. Last week, when a reporter asked Guillen if Buehrle would have a better shot at winning a Cy Young Award if he pitched for the Cubs, the manager raised eyebrows by responding, "He would be more popular, because we got a couple players on the other side [of Chicago] who are real big in this town, [but they] are not doing even close to what Buehrle does."
Indeed, Buehrle, who was 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA through Sunday, has been the most dominant pitcher in the Windy City. The 26-year-old, who has had 32 consecutive starts with at least six innings of work, is the ace of a rotation that was the main reason the White Sox were off to their best start in franchise history (15-4) and had the best record in the majors. Chicago starters were 10-3 with an AL-best 2.84 ERA.
"We may not have the big names in our rotation, but we think [the staff] can be as good as anyone's," says Guillen. "And it all starts with our ace, Buehrle."
-- Albert Chen