CHICAGO | Mark Buehrle probably could find the White Sox clubhouse blindfolded.
When one of the most beloved players in recent South Side history slips into the locker room in the next two days, he’ll have to tread lightly in his first visit back to U.S. Cellular Field since he departed as a free agent after 2011.
The lefty always has played the game right. He’s now a Toronto Blue Jay. His old friends are now his opponents, and although he won’t pitch against the Sox in the three-game series that began Monday night, he’s fully part of the team concept.
“I’ve seen some of (the Sox),” Buehrle said. “I’ll go see Hermie (trainer Schneider) maybe the next couple of days. I kind of feel weird walking in the clubhouse. Obviously, they’re trying to beat us and we’re trying to beat them. You go to battle against these guys and you’re walking into the clubhouse.
“So I’ll try to get here early one of these days and go see some of the guys in the clubhouse. As far as going in, I’ll try to stay out as much as I can.”
Buehrle won’t be able to avoid his old Sox connections, certainly not after 161 victories, a perfect game and a no-hitter, two postseason victories and a save in the 2005 World Series. The Sox showed their video tribute before the bottom of the first inning. The smallish crowd stood and applauded while Buehrle doffed his cap in the visitors dugout.
Robin Ventura, who just missed managing Buehrle, believes he’s worthy of having his number retired and displayed among all the other Sox greats along the upper deck facing.
“Everything he’s done here, the numbers and years speak for themselves,” Ventura said.
Buehrle will welcome a future number retirement or even an outfield statue, but is not obsessed with it.
“If the time comes ... it will be a great honor,” he said. “If it happens, I’ll be here and take it with pride and soak it in. Only time will tell.”
Former lockermate John Danks looked forward to “messing with each other from across the dugouts.” They’ve kept in touch by phone or text, but this series will be the first time they seen each other since Buehrle left.
“I think probably more (emotional) for the fans and crowd, but it’s still business for us,” Danks said. “Certainly we’ll all be excited to see him. He’ll get a good ovation here. It’s certainly well-deserved.”