Start­ing Buehrle was right move in long run

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - Richard Grif­fin

The idea was that af­ter Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle com­pleted his needed two in­nings to reach 200 against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sun­day, he was go­ing back to the mound for the start of the third.

At that point, fel­low starters David Price, R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and Mar­cus Stro­man were go­ing to visit the mound as a group, show their sup­port, and then the five would have left the field to­gether. It may sound a lit­tle hokey, but it demon­strates the real re­spect his team­mates have for Buehrle.

To a man, they sup­ported man­ager John Gib­bons’ de­ci­sion to have Buehrle start on just one day of rest.

“By Gibby al­low­ing Mark to do that, and us still hav­ing some­thing at stake, I think that shows you how much re­spect he had for him,” Dickey said. “That spoke for ev­ery­thing. There was still some­thing on the line, but what Mark has done in his ca­reer is just . . . I thought it was pretty awe­some.”

There are times in life when, as a leader, you have a chance to sac­ri­fice the short-term to gain some­thing big­ger in the long-term. Such seems to be the case with the Jays man­ager, who showed re­spect for an ath­lete and demon­strated some real hu­man­ity in deal­ing with Buehrle, even though he was go­ing against the grain of public opin­ion with first place in the AL still on the line.

But the bot­tom line, gleaned from tour­ing the club­house in the wake of a12-3 loss to the Rays on Sun­day, is that Gib­bons has gained pro­found re­spect from his club­house as they head into the first play­off se­ries for the fran­chise in 22 years. What he gave up in the short-term pos­si­bly was home field ad­van­tage for the ALCS.

“Lis­ten, if you can give me some­body that’s bet­ter we could’ve started,” Gib­bons asked rhetor­i­cally of what would have been a game started by Drew Hutchi­son, with help from the bullpen. “Then of course I stand by it. (Buehrle’s) a war­rior, he gave it his best shot. We make a cou­ple plays, it might be a dif­fer­ent story. The guy that has had the ca­reer he is, he was run­ning on empty to start that game any­way. I didn’t think you could leave him out there.”

Gib­bons had fi­nal­ized his de­ci­sion on Satur­day, not merely to ask Buehrle if he wanted to go af­ter the two in­nings in Sun­day’s start, but to urge him to ac­cept the as­sign­ment in or­der to record the two in­nings he needed to ex­tend his streak to 15 con­sec­u­tive sea­sons with 200 or more in­nings.

The 36-year-old left-han­der ac­cepted, de­spite just one day’s rest, hav­ing started and won on Fri­day at the Trop. Buehrle be­came the first ma­jor-league starter to go on one day or less of rest since Zack Greinke with the Roy­als on July 7-8, 2012.

“Again, I put my­self in po­si­tion to be in that spot,” Buehrle said of need­ing the two in­nings. “It meant ev­ery­thing to me for (Gib­bons) to call me in and tell me ‘If you’re feel­ing OK, go out there.’ Sad thing, I felt bet­ter to­day than I did on Fri­day, bet­ter than I’ve felt in the last month, month and a half. This game is crazy. I didn’t feel great on Fri­day and went 62⁄ and to­day I felt great

3 and they had to take me out in the first in­ning. It’s a weird game but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

No, it did not work for the Jays. Buehrle was let down by his usu­ally solid de­fence and squeezed at key mo­ments by um­pire Al­fonso Mar­quez. The Jays needed to win and have the Roy­als lose. With the Roy­als beat­ing the Twins, in the end, did it even mat­ter.

If Gib­bons can be crit­i­cized — which he al­ways can — for any­thing in al­low­ing a two-game lead over the Roy­als to slip away in the fi­nal five games it would be for shut­ting David Price down or for not field­ing his ‘A’ team in the sec­ond game of a dou­ble­header in Bal­ti­more when the AL East-clinch­ing par­ty­ing had not yet even started.

Gib­bons knew he was not go­ing to use them in the noon game on Thurs­day and could have asked them to play Game 2 be­cause of what was at stake. But once those de­ci­sions were made, move on.

“He’s one of the best pitch­ers in base­ball be­cause of all he’s done for such a long time,” ad­mir­ing team­mate Jose Bautista said. “Ob­vi­ously it’s un­for­tu­nate he didn’t get it done, but he de­served a shot. I re­ally don’t want to get on so­cial media or start read­ing ar­ti­cles about how that wasn’t the right move. I don’t even want to hear it. So I’m go­ing to be the one to step ahead of all of that and say that man de­served that shot he got to­day to get 200 in­nings.”

Buehrle was emo­tional af­ter the game. His wife, chil­dren and par­ents were at games all week­end to of­fer their sup­port. He also re­vealed that con­trary to so­cial media ru­mours, he has not de­cided if Sun­day was his last game and also in­formed media he had been told he was not on the play­off ros­ter but would be the most sup­port­ive player in the dugout.

“It’s tough, it sucks, but I un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion,” Buehrle said. “I haven’t been throw­ing great the last month and we’ve got four guys who have been throw­ing the hell out of the ball. They’re go­ing to take it and run with it. I’ll be ready if some­thing hap­pens.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed, but they made the right de­ci­sion.”

Mean­while, not one player com­plained about Buehrle’s failed out­ing and the de­ci­sion to let him try.

They sup­port their man­ager, prob­a­bly with in­creased re­spect.

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