Buehrle corrals elusive Gold Glove
Left-hander only second Sox pitcher to win honor
CHICAGO -- If Mark Buehrle was to make a checklist for career accomplishments, both White Sox-oriented and of the individual variety, he would be able to mark off a number of targeted goals reached and even a few he didn't expect.
Win a World Series? Check.
Pick up a save in that 2005 World Series? Been there, done that in Game 3.
Throw a no-hitter and a perfect game, the second of which came on July 23 of last season against the potent Rays? Right on with both of those amazing achievements.
Produce a decade's worth of quality mound work, including nine consecutive years with at least 30 starts, double-digit victories and 200 innings pitched, leading to a career record of 38 games above .500? Piece of cake for the 30-year-old southpaw.
Hit a home run? Yeah, Buehrle even was surprised by that one.
But Tuesday, Buehrle officially captured an award he had coveted since becoming a member of the South Siders' rotation in 2001. Buehrle took home an American League Rawlings Gold Glove Award, joining Jim Kaat as the only pitcher in team history to earn the honor recognizing exceptional defense.
Surprisingly, Gold Glove No. 1 for Buehrle sits right on par with that Thursday afternoon perfecto hurled at U.S. Cellular Field.
"It's weird to say, but it does rank just as high up as the perfect game," said Buehrle during a conference call Tuesday. "In this case, you are doing 95 percent of the work, whereas during a perfect game, you are making the pitches but you also have to depend on everyone making the plays behind you.
"I don't want to say that I've been after it, but I definitely take pride in fielding my position. I've always wanted to win a Gold Glove. It's a great honor."
Buehrle led all American League pitchers in 2009 with eight pickoffs, 55 total chances and 41 assists and tied for the AL lead by assisting with five double plays while committing just one error. Since the beginning of the 2001 season, Buehrle leads all Major League pitchers with 63 pickoffs (20 more than Andy Pettitte) and ranks third with 501 total chances and 373 assists.
Over his 10-year career with the White Sox, Buehrle has allowed just 40 stolen bases in 95 attempts. That comes out to a 42.1 percent success rate, which falls as an important statistic for a staff that has had its trouble holding on baserunners.
A trademark defensive move for Buehrle is his kick-save attempt on grounders back up the middle. He admitted that part of his defense was transferred from another sport.
"When I was a little kid, I used to play street hockey," Buehrle said. "So, everything that comes my way, I take pride in knocking stuff down."
Earlier in the offseason, Buehrle won the 2009 Fielding Bible Award, given to just one player at each position in either league. The award is voted on by a panel of 10 experts and takes into account a pitcher's ability to field his position as well as hold baserunners.
Third baseman Robin Ventura was the most recent White Sox player to win a Gold Glove, back in 1998. Ventura won five times, while current manager Ozzie Guillen was the AL Gold Glove winner at shortstop in 1990.
Always considered one of the best fielding pitchers in the AL, Buehrle was blocked by previous winners Kenny Rogers (five times), Mike Mussina (three times) and Johan Santana during his past nine years. None of those three currently resides in the American League, with Buehrle's .982 fielding percentage in 2009 putting him into this illustrious list. Rogers and Mussina have since retired.
"Hopefully, I earned it and it wasn't about, 'They retired, so let's give it to him,'" Buehrle said. "I don't like that. I don't want to win it this year, and then they just hand it to me because I won it for the first time. You should earn it every year."
Tuesday's focus centered on Buehrle's defense, but Buehrle did address how he's been working with a trainer on arm exercises. It's an area of his offseason regimen Buehrle really hasn't addressed in the recent past.
"I'm going two or three days per week, and I started last week," Buehrle said. "I'll go harder as the season gets closer."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.