Superb Buehrle steals Opening Day spotlight with fielding gem
Buehrle's play stood apart for its uniqueness, its creativity and its impossibility. Pujols will hit a lot of home runs (he's even had a two-homer day on Opening Day before, in 2006, and is the only Cardinal to do so since 1952), and for that matter, so will Heyward. But never again is anyone likely to see Buehrle's play duplicated. By him, or anyone else.
Buehrle's no-look, between-the-legs scoop was a sight to behold. One White Sox person said he just may have wrapped up his second straight Gold Glove with that one play, and no one should disagree.
White Sox pitching coach
It wasn't just the play, either. "Today, he blew me away,'' Cooper said by phone last night, hours after Buehrle's 6-0 victory over the AL Central-rival Indians on Chicago's South Side.
"He had life, energy, stuff, movement,'' Cooper gushed about the seven-inning, three-hit, one-walk, three-strikeout outing in Buehrle's franchise-record eighth Opening Day assignment.
Generally speaking, Buehrle's pretty darned good, probably a lot better than most folks think. He probably isn't the first guy that comes to mind when naming the game's best pitchers. But he wins 60 percent of his games (he's 136-97 lifetime), he throws more than 200 innings every season (nine years and running, including five straight from 2001-05 that were at least 220), and he almost routinely makes the impossible seem simple.
Though he is perennially one of the softer throwers in the game and three times has allowed the most hits in a season ("Buehrle normally dominates games by contact,'' is the way Cooper put it), he has managed to throw two no-hitters, including his perfect game last year that was punctuated by another defensive play for the ages, the over-the-wall catch in the ninth inning by center fielder
As good as that play was, Buehrle will always be known first and foremost for his work on the mound. "It's all about movement and changing speeds,'' Cooper said of Buehrle. "He does it good, and he does it fast.'' Everything about Buehrle is fast except the velocity of his pitches. His fastball is generally in the mid 80s. He rarely touches 90 anymore. "I'm not even going to look at the gun,'' Cooper said. "If I'm judging him by the gun, I'm going to get down.'' Rather, Cooper said, "He gives hope to every kid who doesn't light up the gun.''
Cooper likes the hard throwers, too, and the White Sox have plenty of them, particularly relievers
"If we stay healthy, we're going to be pretty good,'' Cooper said. "And if we get hot, watch out.''
• Banned in Boston:
• Radar champion.
• The Mets have the best Opening Day record at 32-17, believe it or not.
• Everyone loves Heyward and predicts stardom for him. But a Braves outfielder making his debut hit a homer on Opening Day last year, too. That was
• It was 66 degrees or better for the start every game. Beautiful.