Frustrated Buehrle 'felt better' after long layoff
Blue Jays lefty tosses five innings after getting three extra days' rest
ATLANTA -- Mark Buehrle made his return to the mound on Tuesday night, and even though he appeared to be very frustrated after the game, he gave himself a clean bill of health following a week of uncertainty.
Buehrle was originally scheduled to pitch on Saturday, but his outing was bumped back three days as he received a cortisone shot in his left shoulder. He returned Tuesday and allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk over five innings in a 3-2 loss to the Braves.
The veteran lefty took two questions from the media after the game before cutting his scrum short. It wasn't immediately clear what upset the normally easygoing personality, but the fact that he has made just two starts this month and was limited to five innings vs. Atlanta could not have helped matters.
"I felt good, that's pretty much all it comes down to," Buehrle said. "I got into a couple of jams, guys got on base, same thing. I felt like I made some good pitches and they were putting the ball in play.
"A couple of ground balls through the infield and that's it. I think the biggest thing that I take away from it is that I felt better than I have in the last few starts."
Buehrle has maintained all along that he isn't hurt, but he did recently admit to being "banged up." As he talked about that over the last several weeks, Buehrle also was quick to point out that it was the same situation he found himself in every year and that despite grinding through some outings, he always found a way to continue.
The 36-year-old has reached the 200-inning mark in 14 consecutive years, but that streak is at risk of coming to an end this season. After Tuesday's loss, he sits at 179 1/3 innings with the possibility of four more starts before the end of the year. But if he gets skipped or bumped again, his stretch will be in jeopardy.
The Blue Jays hoped Tuesday night would be the start of his turnaround as they attempt to find a way for Buehrle to finish the year strong. He gave up some hard contact in the second and third innings, but he settled down after that and faced just one batter over the minimum in the fourth and fifth.
One of Buehrle's two runs was unearned because of an error to first baseman Justin Smoak, but the start was still cut short after five because of National League rules, as manager John Gibbons decided to use a pinch-hitter in the sixth. In the end, it led to a surprise loss against a team that had dropped 12 consecutive games at home prior to Tuesday night's walk-off victory.
"They're still going out and trying to win games, they're a big league [team] and there are guys on this team that are in the big leagues for a reason," Buehrle said in response to the second question. "We can't just assume we're going to win three games because they're not good and we are. But again, it comes down to: I felt good, and that's all that matters."
A reporter then attempted to ask a follow-up question after that response, but Buehrle added, "That's all I'm going to say about it," before walking away. It was a rare sign of apparent frustration from one of the game's most laid-back pitchers.
"It had been a long layoff for him, but I thought it was good that he got through five, and the last three innings were much better," Gibbons said of Buehrle, who hadn't pitched since Sept. 7.
"Ideally you'd like to see them all go six or seven innings, but that doesn't happen all the time."