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Notes: Buehrle question lingers

Notes: Buehrle question lingers

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KANSAS CITY - Could Mark Buehrle make his last start in a White Sox uniform in Monday night's opener of a four-game set against Baltimore at U.S. Cellular Field?

Neither the affable southpaw nor White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen seemed to have given this concept much thought when they were asked that exact question prior to Sunday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium. Guillen quipped how he saved the baseball from Buehrle's last start against Tampa Bay just in case, and Buehrle spoke of his teammates joking about this particular topic over the past couple of weeks.

"It's one of those things that I'm not too concerned about," Buehrle said.

"The game's not over until it's over," Guillen added of Buehrle's status. "I just go one day at a time and see what's the next step. My job's to put him in tomorrow to pitch and hopefully, the next outing."

Uncertainty continues to hover around Buehrle and his contractual negotiations with the White Sox. The two sides appear to have reached an impasse over the inclusion of a no-trade clause covering the entire four years of a reported $56 million deal.

In comments made via e-mail to the Daily Herald Sunday, Ken Williams explained how the team would not back off its stance on this particular topic. The White Sox general manager wrote how he "cannot build a championship team if I do. The short-term and long-term ramifications are just too great."

Buehrle did not know of those comments when asked on Sunday, but chose not to respond. If a new deal cannot be struck, Buehrle figures to be a prime target on the open trade market with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching at the end of July.

An ideal trade involving the White Sox ace may never come about or it could happen sooner than later. Theoretically, every Buehrle start for the next month could be his last with the White Sox if nothing changes, something the fans in attendance Monday are sure to recognize even if Buehrle doesn't think about such attention.

"I don't see why there would be," said Buehrle, when asked if he expected to get huge crowd support when he takes the mound Monday. "Just because all this stuff about me being traded, contract talk, I don't see why there would be. There could be, but I don't see why."

"Mark has done a lot of good things for this organization and fans respect that," Guillen added. "Hopefully, they go out and support him."

Holding pattern: Before Darin Erstad was even asked about the current recovery process for his sprained left ankle, the White Sox center fielder smiled and said the media could refer to his quotes from the first time he suffered the injury this season.

Erstad originally went down on May 30 during a swing on a pitch from Roy Halladay and returned on June 22 against the Cubs. He played in only the top half of the first inning, aggravating the injury while making a diving catch on a Mike Fontenot line drive. Erstad returned to the disabled list the next day and won't be back until after the All-Star break.

According to Erstad, the latest injury happened on the planting and push off before he even caught Fontenot's shot. But an individual known for playing at full throttle all the time doesn't intend to change his style after the two ankle issues.

"No, I won't do that," Erstad said. "Obviously, I'm going on a rehab assignment and that's the time you go and get rid of that tentativeness. You can't play at this level like that.

"I just started stuff like two days ago. I'm trying to do the process again, very similar to what I was doing before. I'm going to have to make sure it's right. Just take those steps when they come but I don't see that light at the end of the tunnel right now."

Pitching in: Ask Ryan Bukvich about his last Major League victory prior to his one-pitch win on Saturday night, and the right-hander has a fairly solid recollection of the facts from four years ago.

"It was Opening Day, 2003, against the White Sox," Bukvich said. "Buehrle threw a good game, and [Damaso] Marte blew it later in the game."

In reality, Bukvich had the year correct and hit the mark when mentioning his current team as the losing squad on that night. But his win actually came in the third game of the 2003 campaign, as the Royals rallied for seven in the eighth and completed a season-opening sweep of the White Sox. Marte pitched in relief of Jon Garland and allowed one run in one-third of an inning, but it was Tom Gordon who suffered the loss and closer Billy Koch who was truly roughed up.

Saturday's victory was important for a reason other than Bukvich's walk down memory lane. It served as the bullpen's only win during the month of June, following seven consecutive losses. The relief crew continues to fight its way back to respectability, having allowed two runs in its last 13 2/3 innings.

"They are a bit more aggressive, coming at hitters a bit more, throwing a few more strikes and putting up zeroes," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of the bullpen's change. "Over the last [week], it has been going the way we hoped it would go for the whole season."

Around the horn: With seven hits in his past 23 at-bats, Tadahito Iguchi appears to have worked his way out of a season-long slump. "He's swung the bat real good this road trip," said Guillen of Iguchi. "Hopefully, he stays like that for a long time. We need this kid to be hot." ... Jermaine Dye, who has missed the past nine games, could be back in the starting lineup during the four-game set against Baltimore. Guillen wanted to wait to see how Dye felt after a pregame running session before he made any sort of decision. ... Dewon Day threw one scoreless inning for Triple-A Charlotte Saturday in the first outing of his Minor League rehab assignment. Day has been on the disabled list since June 16 with a sore back.

Down on the farm: Jack Egbert raised his record to 8-6 and lowered his ERA to 2.88, allowing one run over seven innings Saturday, during Double-A Birmingham's 4-3 victory over Montgomery. Egbert fanned eight and walked three, while giving up four hits ... Trailing 9-0 in the third, Great Falls rallied for a 12-10 victory over Billings by scoring three in the seventh and sixth in the eighth. Eight different starters had at least two hits ... Jose Martinez homered and doubled twice amongst his four hits, driving home three, during Bristol's 6-3 first-game victory over Kingsport. Oney Guillen finished 1-for-2 in Bristol's loss during the nightcap ... Heath Phillips struck out eight over seven innings but still came up short during Charlotte's 3-2 loss to Pawtucket ... David Cook launched his 12th home run during Class A Winston-Salem's 5-2 setback to Kinston.

On deck: Buehrle (5-4, 3.33) makes his first start against Baltimore since 2005 on Monday at 7:11 p.m. CT. He has a 4-1 lifetime record with a 2.26 ERA against the Orioles in seven starts and nine games overall.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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