Then, Buehrle looked down at the affected area between his left elbow and his left forearm, and the left-hander's thought process quickly changed.
"It kind of balled up," said Buehrle of the region on his arm that was struck, talking about the incident after receiving treatment during the game. "My heart kind of stopped because I thought it was broken, at first.
"I've never seen anything like that happen," Buehrle added.
As if the starting pitching for the White Sox didn't have enough struggles and issues emanating from the first two games of the 2007 season, this split-second, one-out situation seemed to provide a direct hit to the team's postseason possibilities. But the ensuing news in regard to Buehrle's condition ultimately turned a negative into somewhat of a positive.
X-rays proved negative, with Buehrle suffering from a contusion and listed as day to day. White Sox athletic trainer Herm Schneider already knocked down some of the swelling, according to Buehrle, who added that he was told by Schneider if his arm wasn't broken, he wouldn't miss his next start on Tuesday in Oakland.
Regardless of the prognosis, manager Ozzie Guillen already had three plans in mind for the upcoming stretch of games against Minnesota, the A's and the Indians. The perfect result would be Buehrle bouncing back and staying on his turn, but if Buehrle needs another day or two to recover, Guillen could maneuver the rotation because of last Tuesday's off-day and another break in the action this Thursday between Oakland and Cleveland.
If Jose Contreras moved up to start Saturday, pitching on regular rest, followed by John Danks' Major League debut and Jon Garland working the series opener against Oakland on Monday, Javier Vazquez would have to come back on three days' rest on Tuesday. That move doesn't seem as likely, especially this early in the season, as Guillen going with Nick Masset in a spot start.
Masset received extended relief work for the second time in three games, allowing just one run on four hits over 4 2/3 innings Thursday. The rookie right-hander said he treated Thursday's effort like a start and would be ready to do the same on Tuesday, if needed.
"I think Mark's going to be OK but if he weren't, yeah, absolutely," said Masset, when asked about making a spot start. "I've been a starter throughout my career. Whatever's going to help out the team."
"We'll try to do everything to keep the same guys," Guillen added of his rotation. "It's not in our minds right now. I just worry about today's game."
Through his first six years as a starter, Buehrle has been the model of consistency. The left-hander, who figures to become a free agent after the 2007 campaign, has worked at least 204 innings in each of those six seasons, never making less than 32 starts. With those durable statistics, Buehrle clearly has never made a trip to the disabled list.
In fact, Buehrle remembers only one other time when he was struck on the mound, that instance coming on a barnstorming tour of Japan in 2002, when Hideki Matsui hit him in the same area of his pitching arm.
"They said, if it was an inch or two one way or the other, it could have broke something," said Buehrle of the scare in Japan. "So, I've gotten hit before, but nothing that ever reacted like that.
"When I looked down and saw that bulge...," Buehrle added, pausing as he thought of what could have been a major injury.
According to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, the ball was coming out of Buehrle's hand great through his 1 1/3 innings and he had a lot of life on his pitches. Buehrle had yielded Grady Sizemore's leadoff home run and Jason Michaels' first-inning single, before Garko ripped a pitch off his body.
Buehrle tried to retrieve the ball, while grimacing in pain. When he didn't even take a warmup toss before leaving the field, the worst seemed to be an unfortunately plausible expectation.
As of Thursday evening, Buehrle didn't even plan on missing his next start.
"To be honest with you, he hit it so hard I didn't see it until it was on the ground," said Pierzynski of the second-inning scare. "I didn't see where it hit him at first. I heard it, and I knew it wasn't good.
"I saw his expression and then I really knew it wasn't good. Luckily, it missed all the major organs, hit a muscle and hopefully he will be OK to go in four or five days."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less