TORONTO – Time is running out for Mark Buehrle.
The 36-year-old Blue Jays left-hander stands 8 2/3 innings shy of reaching the 200-inning plateau for the 15th straight season. With one start likely left in Toronto’s remaining seven games, he needs to dig deep to have a chance of extending his streak.
“Mathematically it’s still there, but the chances and the reality, I think, are pretty slim,” Buehrle said Sunday after pitching six innings in a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’ve had plenty of opportunities this year to go deeper into games… I’ve had opportunities, it just wasn’t there. And if it comes to an end, it comes to an end. And the world’s not going to end.”
The only others to pitch 200 innings for 15 straight seasons are Hall of Famers Don Sutton and Gaylord Perry.
Buehrle knows 3 1/3 innings in Boston earlier this month and 4.0 in Philadelphia in August were some of those missed opportunities to add to his innings total.
Asked if he might consider rejigging things to give Buehrle more of chance to reach the plateau, Toronto manager John Gibbons seemed of two minds.
“The bottom line is you’re trying to win the game,” said Gibbons. “As much as you’d like to, you can’t let your heart get in the way of your head.”
Buehrle’s next start is slated for Friday in Tampa.
“Then there’s two games after that,” Gibbons mused. “If we’re sitting in a good spot, he might be able to come back and throw a few innings Sunday in a starting role. Who knows. I mean that may be a bit far-fetched but it’s possible. If it doesn’t affect what we want to do either, it could happen.”
After Sunday’s no decision, Buehrle was asked whether it mattered if he threw 198 or 200 innings, given both number speak to his durability.
“Yeah but it’s still not 200,” he replied, “You like that round number starting with a two. Again if I do end up on 198, that could be it. I’m not saying I’m going to start on Sunday but I may go in and argue with them and beg with them and try to get that one extra start and just go for a couple innings.”
Sunday represented Buehrle’s 491st consecutive start without a stint on the disabled list, the longest active streak.
Buehrle (14-7) has not felt his best in the second half of the season, however, and has had several starts pushed back due to general fatigue.
“He’s gutting it out, like he always does,” said Gibbons.
Buehrle, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season, says he has yet to decide his future. He made US$20 million this season.
Speed is not his forte. While he threw his fastball in the low 80s, several deliveries against the Rays on Sunday only clocked 67 or 68 miles per hour. Instead he uses control to frustrate hitters.
“I still feel like I’m capable of going out there and putting up good numbers,” he said. “I mean I don’t feel I’m at that point in my career that I can’t get guys out.”
Buehrle’s career record is 213-159 with a 3.81 earned-run average over 3,276 innings.