Manager Ozzie Guillen believes that the left-hander, who suffered the first losing season of his career last season, is back to the form that earned him an 81-52 record between 2001 and 2005.
"This Spring Training was hard," said Guillen. "The guy was claiming step-by-step, but those steps were baby steps. Now I see the progress. Mark was consistently throwing 87, 88, 89 [mph]. When he can keep the velocity up there, it makes his changeup effective. He threw the ball real good. His fastball was there. He kept the ball in play. He made his pitches. Hopefully, the next time, he'll be even better, and win when it counts."
Buehrle shook off the homer to Jones, which followed a walk to shortstop Edgar Renteria, and gave the Braves a 2-1 lead.
"I'm going to give up home runs," he said. "So, the first inning, give up a two-run shot, then go out and throw zeroes, give my team a chance to win. I've always been that way."
He was nonplussed by his streak of nine straight balls in the third inning, which included walks to Renteria and Jones.
"There was just one inning when I couldn't throw a strike," said Buehrle, who lowered his spring ERA to 6.95 from 9.00. "It's just one of those things. I don't know what I was doing. I don't know if I was trying to throw too hard or what, but I got out of the inning without any runs scored. That's all that matters."
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Buehrle got out of the jam by getting Andruw Jones to pop out to shortstop Juan Uribe. From that point on, he allowed only one Brave to reach second base and none to advance past it. The 106 pitches were the most any White Sox hurler had thrown this spring, but were not a problem for the rubber-armed lefty.
"I asked [pitching coach Don Cooper] going into today if we were going to go hardcore or if we were going to kind of hold off and go five innings and rest," said Buehrle, who is slated to start the finale of the opening series in Cleveland. "He said, 'We're going to treat it just like any other game.' So I kind of planned on going out there and getting around 100 pitches."
"I have a lot of confidence in him," said Guillen. "We all think he's going to have a good year."
Just keep him out of Tucson.