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'Consistent' Buehrle set for jersey retirement

White Sox great will be honored before game vs. A's Saturday
MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Those wondering if Mark Buehrle misses the Major Leagues after amassing 214 wins and 3,283 1/3 innings pitched over 16 Major League seasons can take solace in the fact he's still playing.

"Signed a contract with a beer league softball team, so I'm doing that on Sunday nights. Just trying to stay active and have fun," Buehrle said during his Friday press conference at Guaranteed Rate Field prior to his No. 56 being retired Saturday afternoon.

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CHICAGO -- Those wondering if Mark Buehrle misses the Major Leagues after amassing 214 wins and 3,283 1/3 innings pitched over 16 Major League seasons can take solace in the fact he's still playing.

"Signed a contract with a beer league softball team, so I'm doing that on Sunday nights. Just trying to stay active and have fun," Buehrle said during his Friday press conference at Guaranteed Rate Field prior to his No. 56 being retired Saturday afternoon.

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"I'm playing first base," added a smiling Buehrle. "Hitting fourth, if that tells you anything."

Buehrle's forte certainly was not hitting, although he finished with two doubles and one home run among nine career hits. His rise to stardom came from consistency on the mound and in the clubhouse.

The southpaw never made a trip to the disabled list, and he put together 14 straight seasons with at least 200 innings pitched, 30 starts and double-digit victories. He added four Gold Gloves, five All-Star appearances and started and saved games on back-to-back nights in the 2005 World Series sweep of the Astros.

Video: Mark Buehrle looks back on 2005 World Series

But equal to this talent was Buehrle's ability to enjoy his career and mentor teammates without even really trying to lead.

"I don't think there was a time where I said, 'I'm good.' It was always never taking anything for granted," Buehrle said. "Go out there and you got to make outs. If you are not getting outs, you are going to be in the Minors."

"He was consistent. That's what you hope for a pitcher," White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper said. "Before ballgames, he was signing autographs for the fans. That's what he would do to unwind a little bit."

Jamie Buehrle, Mark's wife, his 9-year-old son Braden and 8-year-old daughter Brooklyn sat off to his left Friday as Buehrle answered questions with his self-deprecating but confident tone. Brooklyn will throw out the ceremonial first pitch Saturday before the White Sox host the A's, and Braden will sing the national anthem.

When Buehrle was asked if he was excited to see his son sing, he of course answered yes, "because I'll be done talking." He quickly added his son nailed a practice run and is ready to go.

Having his name added as the 11th White Sox number retired -- joining Nellie Fox (2), Harold Baines (3), Luke Appling (4), Minnie Minoso (9), Luis Aparicio (11), Paul Konerko (14), Ted Lyons (16), Billy Pierce (19), Frank Thomas (35), Carlton Fisk (72) and Jackie Robinson (42) -- still makes little sense to a player who grew up watching Thomas play.

He humorously described his emotional expectations for Saturday as a "complete disaster," adding he's lost sleep in what will be the most nerve-wracking and quite possibly one of the most treasured events of his life.

"Public speaking is probably my worst fear, and I have to get out there, try to soak it in, try to have fun with it," Buehrle said. "My kids keep asking me, 'Dad, why are you so nervous? Just go out there and talk.'

"I'm trying to get [Braden] to actually talk. It's going to be awesome. Probably won't remember most of it until I watch it on video a little bit later. Just try to go out there and soak it in.

"I've I got a few pointers and a few things that I want to I guess mention and say. But when this [microphone] gets in front of my mouth and I look up and there's people, I don't know what's going to come out."

One of the quickest workers in the game left little doubt as to the speech's length.

"It's not going to be long," Buehrle said. "I can tell you that."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox