The Blue Jays rotation continued to gain clarity on Tuesday, with Mark Buehrle turning in a strong outing after the club chose to send Drew Hutchison into a bullpen role. Buehrle had originally been scheduled to pitch on the weekend, but saw his start pushed back as he received a cortisone shot in his throwing shoulder.
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Through 5.0 innings pitched against the Braves, Buehrle allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits. The most important takeaway from the start is that Buehrle looked, well, simply normal. He told reporters after the game that he felt fine physically and is confident in his arm going forward.
“I felt good, that’s pretty much all it comes down to,” Buehrle told Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. “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.
Buehrle was lifted after just 66 pitches for a pinch-hitter, which is the nature of the interleague beast, but Chisholm notes that the veteran seemed visibly frustrated after the game. Something out of the ordinary for Buehrle, who typically operates well under the radar.
“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.” When a follow-up question began, Buehrle reportedly interjected with “”That’s all I’m going to say about it.” Interesting.
I’d like to believe that Buehrle was irritated over the manner in which Toronto lost the game, not his usage within it. Playing against one of the MLB’s true cellar-dwellars, the Jays allowed Atlanta to hang around for nine innings despite numerous chances to pull away. When divisional standings crunch together towards the final days of a season, these are the games that contenders look back upon and cringe at.
Let’s chalk it up to the heat of the moment, however, and appreciate the encouraging return from Buehrle. I’ve maintained for weeks that his experience alone is not enough to push him onto the playoff roster, but if his performance can push him on, then the experience makes him even more valuable. Especially as a mentor to the young Marcus Stroman, who’s looking to edge Buehrle for a rotation spot, the Blue Jays would be better with Buehlre at his best. Even at his average, which Tuesday was.
The next test for Buehrle will be pitching on regular rest, but given his half-workload on Tuesday, there shouldn’t be much worry. Perhaps some fire from the greybeard is what this roster needs to spark them out of the mini-slump. Buehrle has been here. He knows how these things work.