Notes: Buehrle preparing for '08 season

Notes: Buehrle preparing for '08 season

CHICAGO -- The offseason physical fitness regimen followed by Mark Buehrle after the 2006 regular season paid huge in-season dividends for the White Sox left-handed ace during the 2007 campaign.

Buehrle saw a jump in fastball velocity even from his first of 30 starts back in April, and the southpaw felt healthier overall as he bounced back from a disappointing second half to the 2006 season. With this current highly successful effort behind him, Buehrle intends to work even harder in preparation for 2008.

"I have an appointment set up for the Tuesday after the week we get home," Buehrle said with a smile of his increased training regimen.

It wasn't until the middle of last December that Buehrle started working with trainer Brendan O'Neal in St. Charles, Mo., by the starting pitcher's account. Buehrle had 20 training sessions last winter, but plans to increase the total to hopefully around 40 with the same trainer, who also works with Rams receiver Torry Holt.

"He keeps on joking, saying he's going to get me a six-pack, that he's going to get me to see my abs," said Buehrle, who turns 29 on March 23. "I'm not sure if that's ever going to happen. I eat and drink too much to see my abs.

"He's motivated to get me where I was at the same point last year. Obviously, coming to Spring Training, I felt good."

Keeping up this same training program became a little tougher for Buehrle once games began. That slight drop in conditioning and the wear and tear of Buehrle's seventh straight 200-inning season caused a slight drop in velocity near the end of 2007, but nothing concrete to worry Buehrle.

After posting a 3-7 mark with a 6.44 ERA following the 2006 All-Star break, Buehrle seemed more than satisfied with this season's 10-9 effort and 3.63 ERA. Buehrle allowed 208 hits in 201 innings and struck out 115, an improvement traced in part to his improved physical condition.

"It definitely helped me early in the season," Buehrle said. "I think I stepped up from the second half of 2006, when people thought I was done. I proved last year was one of the years where my second half was just a bad half.

"This season, I pitched well enough to have more than 10 wins, and I gave the team a chance to win. Overall, I feel pretty good about the season."

Invest in Bonds: San Francisco's announcement last week concerning Barry Bonds not returning to the Bay Area immediately brought up scattered media speculation as to how the White Sox could be a potential suitor for the supremely talented but controversial Hall of Fame-bound slugger. But with Jim Thome firmly entrenched as the White Sox designated hitter, there wouldn't seem to be anything close to a natural fit within the South Siders' lineup where Bonds is concerned.

There's also the little matter of Ozzie Guillen wanting to keep a unit together where no player is bigger than the team as a whole, even if it's a player such as Bonds, who still provides great power and on-base potential at 43.

"My stuff is the ballclub first and the players later," Guillen said. "I was so lucky in the years I've been managing, I don't have anyone above the ballclub. Everyone is equal.

"I don't know if Barry would like my rules," added Guillen with a laugh. "My rules are every day, whether you are winning or losing. I don't think he will go by my rules. I don't know if he's willing to do that."

Getting greedy: With five games remaining in the 2007 regular season and Jerry Owens sitting at 29 stolen bases, the White Sox leadoff man has adjusted his goals upward for the final week.

"My goal was 30 stolen bases," said Owens with a smile. "Now, my goal is 35."

Owens leads all Major League rookies with his lofty stolen base total and has the most stolen bases for a White Sox rookie since John Cangelosi's team record of 50 set in 1986. While Owens has proven his value through a .285 average and 26 stolen bases since his callup from Triple-A Charlotte on July 3, he also hears the talk of the team's possible offseason pursuit of marquee center field free agents such as Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand.

As to where he might fit next year, though, Owens doesn't seem worried in the present or ready to speculate.

"That stuff is out of my control, so all I can do is play hard," said Owens of talk centered on Hunter and Rowand. "I would love to be here. I would love to be here and be the leadoff hitter for the White Sox for a long time."

Bad start, fast ending: Guillen usually waits until pretty much the final pitch has been thrown before making offseason plans with his family. During this miserable 2007 campaign, Guillen started setting up his vacation a bit earlier.

"It's the first time I was making arrangement, two days ago," Guillen said. "I need to go on vacation where nobody knows about baseball."

Around the horn: The American League Player of the Week honor bestowed upon Josh Fields for the week of Sept. 17-23 was the first such recognition given to a White Sox rookie since Joe Crede was honored twice in 2002. Buehrle was the only other overall weekly winner for the White Sox in 2007, earning the award when he threw his no-hitter on April 18. ... Thome entered Tuesday's series opener with 36 of his career 504 home runs coming against the Royals. Thome has 106 RBIs in 142 career games when facing the Royals. ... The 68-88 record for the White Sox is the worst through 156 games since 1989, when the team had a 67-89 mark.

On deck: Jon Garland (9-16, 4.42 ERA) makes his 32nd and final start of the 2007 season on Wednesday night, battling against Zack Greinke (7-6, 3.62). Garland has a 1-6 record with a 5.13 ERA in his last 10 starts, but the right-hander looks to become the fourth starter with double-digit victories on the White Sox staff this season.

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