At 34 years old and with 12 major-league seasons under his belt, Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle has played on good teams and bad.
He pitched for three post-season entries in Chicago, capping it with the 2005 World Series win over the Astros. He also finished in last place with the Marlins a year ago. He believes this Jays team may be his best ever.
“This team, I think, is better (than the ’05 White Sox) on paper, but again we have to go out there and play 162 games and try and get to the post-season,” Buehrle said. “If you asked me in spring training ’05 and now, on paper, I think this team’s better. We have a great lineup. We have a great starting staff. Bullpen’s good. It’s just everything, every aspect of the game we’ve got going good.”
If anyone is looking for a sure thing with this Jays team heading into 2013, look no further than Buehrle. The crafty left-hander, who turned 34 Saturday, has recorded precisely 13 wins for four seasons in a row, and has won 10 or more games and exceeded 200 innings pitched in each of the past 12 seasons. You can mail those numbers in.
On Sunday, Buehrle took the short car ride over to the Jays’ minor-league complex with bullpen coach Pat Hentgen to get in his 85 pitches against the same group of Pirates prospects that had faced and defeated Ricky Romero three days earlier. The rest of the Jays team was in Fort Myers to face the Twins. It’s becoming an unwritten rule now that teams hide their starters from AL opponents they will face in the regular season. He was Buehrle-esque in his efficiency, but not fully satisfied.
With a wind howling in from centre field at about 50 kilometres an hour, Buehrle sped through 5.1 innings, allowing one run on seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He threw 86 pitches. The game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m., was moved up to noon because of the threatening weather and Buehrle threw his first pitch at 11:54 a.m., six minutes in advance. This is a man in a hurry with influence.