Buehrle gets ball if Sox force Game 5

Buehrle gets ball if Sox force Game 5

CHICAGO -- Little doubt existed as to the pitcher Ozzie Guillen would select if the White Sox were able to force a deciding Game 5 on Wednesday for this American League Division Series between the Rays and White Sox.

Prior to Monday's Game 4, Guillen made the decision official. If the series goes the distance, then Mark Buehrle will take the mound against the Rays' James Shields. Buehrle not only has the most playoff experience among the four or five White Sox starters, but Guillen also wanted to go with a southpaw against the Rays.

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"I believe the lefties can do a lot better," said Guillen, supporting his choice of Buehrle. "I hear [Tampa Bay manager Joe] Maddon say, 'We're better against lefties than righties.' I don't think you [are] reading your record.

"If you look at the key players they have, the [Carlos] Penas, the [Cliff] Floyds, [Carl] Crawford, [Akinori] Iwamura, they have pretty strong left-handed hitters. I'd rather see [Rocco] Baldelli or [Gabe] Gross hit besides seeing Floyd or [Eric] Hinske. That's the way I perceive the ballclub."

A Game 5 start would be Buehrle's seventh career postseason outing, and his fifth start. He's 2-1 with a 4.11 ERA for his playoff career, with this past Friday at Tropicana Field being his only defeat.

Chicago's veteran left-hander pitched in Game 2 of the series Friday and took a 3-2 deficit into the eighth inning before the Rays added three more runs. Buehrle was tagged with five runs allowed on 10 hits over his seven-plus innings.

Other starting options were rookie Clayton Richard, who pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of Javier Vazquez last Thursday, or Vazquez himself. Buehrle would get the nod on regular four days' rest, thanks to Tuesday's off-day, meaning there truly would be no better option.

Vazquez did a little "touch and feel" work in the bullpen on Monday afternoon, preparing for his role in relief on Monday. He has struggled mightily over his last four starts, allowing 24 earned runs on 26 hits over 16 1/3 innings.

The right-hander understands the temporary demotion and put the team's good before his on-field troubles.

"Well, we will see what happens," Vazquez said. "We are still in the playoffs, and hopefully I get the opportunity to pitch again. If not, hopefully we keep winning and win the World Series and go from there.

"I felt good, but it's not happening right now. Like I said before, it feels terrible not to help. But some guys are stepping up."

Confidence appears to be a current issue for Vazquez, but the talent is there for a pitcher with 2,015 career strikeouts. Signed for two more years with the White Sox at $11.5 million per season, Vazquez has no intention of moving somewhere else despite his troubles from the past month.

"No. It's not me to run away from anything," Vazquez said. "I want to stay here and see what happens."

"Javy just needs to clear his mind and show people how good he is," Guillen said.

Scott Merkin and Jason Beck are reporters for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.