What's Going On With Mark Buehrle?

Is pitcher hiding an injury?

For years Mark Buehrle has been the constant of the White Sox starting rotation.  No matter who has come and gone from the team over recent years, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, Javier Vazquez, Orlando Hernandez, it seems that on Opening Day every year it's number 56 taking the mound for the White Sox.  That was the plan for this season as well, but it appears that may change.

After getting rocked by the Cubs on Saturday in Glendale, Buehrle's ERA on the spring is up to 9.00, and though spring training numbers shouldn't be taken too seriously, there is something else that should regarding Buehrle.  That's the way he's being treated by the organization.

Ozzie Guillen is now saying that the team is considering bumping Buehrle down to the fourth spot in the rotation so the team can "protect him."  Well if the White Sox are protecting Buehrle, the question that needs to be asked, and was by the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley, what are they protecting him from?

According to Cowley, he's heard from a Major League source that Buehrle had to "take the needle more than a few times last year," a reference to cortisone shots players take to deal with pain.  Of course, when Buehrle was asked about it he joked that he did take a lot of shots last season, but they were HGH.

He then went on to say that he didn't take a single cortisone shot in all of 2008, and he can only remember having one in the last three or four years.  Buehrle's reasoning for his light workload is that the team wants to keep him fresh for the end of the season, and his numbers seem to back it up.

In 2006 Buehrle saw his ERA go from 4.02 in the first half to 6.44 in the second half.  He experienced the same jump in 2007 when he ERA grew from 3.03 to 4.43.  Then last spring the team began taking the same approach with Buehrle they are this year, and he went 4-1 with a 2.29 ERA in September.

Whatever is going on in this situation, Sox fans better hope Buehrle is telling the truth and that Cowley's source is wrong.  If the Sox are going to get back to the postseason this October, they're going to need Buehrle to help them get there.

Along with writing for NBCCHICAGO.com, Tom Fornelli can also be found contributing at FanHouse, SPORTSbyBROOKS, and his own Chicago sports blog Foul Balls

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