CHICAGO -- The seeds of Mark Buehrle's great mound defense actually didn't take root in the game of baseball.
"I played a little street hockey when I was younger and I just had a habit of throwing out my arms and feet," said Buehrle, during a conference call after the southpaw received his second straight Rawlings American League Gold Glove, making him the first pitcher in Major League Baseball history to have multiple Gold Gloves and no-hitters on his resume.
"One of these days, it's going to get me hurt pretty badly," Buehrle added.
So far, there have been no physical problems caused by this haphazard defensive style for Buehrle during his decade as a starting pitcher for the White Sox. Nothing but accolades for the 31-year-old.
Long considered one of the best fielding pitchers in the game, Buehrle, was previously blocked by Kenny Rogers, Mike Mussina and even Johan Santana in pursuit of this individual prize. His Gold Glove recognition in 2009 left Buehrle and Jim Kaat (1974-75) as the only White Sox pitchers to be judged as the single-season defensive best.
Buehrle also joins Kaat, second baseman Nellie Fox, catcher Sherm Lollar, outfielder Minnie Minoso, shortstop Luis Aparicio, outfielder Jim Landis and third baseman Robin Ventura as the only multiple winners in franchise history. But Buehrle knows that the voting for the Gold Gloves, decided by AL managers and coaches in his instance, sometimes can be based on reputation.
It's not how Buehrle wants to continue obtaining baseball's most coveted defensive prize. His goal is to earn the recognition.
"Once you win it, you can keep getting it handed to you and they just go off who won it previous years," Buehrle said. "But I think I did a good job fielding my position and holding baserunners, doing everything involved in winning the Gold Glove.
"Just to have coaches and players recognize you are the top fielder at your position, it's a great honor. I take pride in doing that."
In reality, this particular award might have been secured by Buehrle on Opening Day through a spectacular play. This play lasting as the defensive standard over the next 161 games shows its true spectacular nature.
During the fifth inning of a 6-0 home victory for the White Sox over the Indians, the White Sox ace left-hander deflected Lou Marson's hard-hit grounder up the middle with a kick-save worthy of a top-notch goaltender from Buehrle's street games. He then raced over past the first-base foul line to grab the deflection.
But Buehrle's moment of excellence didn't stop there. He grabbed the baseball with his glove and made a no-look, fade-away toss between his legs to first baseman Paul Konerko, who grabbed the throw with his bare hand for the out.
AL GOLD GLOVE WINNERS
|C||Joe Mauer, Twins||3|
|1B||Mark Teixeira, Yankees||4|
|2B||Robinson Cano, Yankees||1|
|3B||Evan Longoria, Rays||2|
|SS||Derek Jeter, Yankees||5|
|OF||Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners||10|
|OF||Carl Crawford, Rays||1|
|OF||Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners||1|
|P||Mark Buehrle, White Sox||2|
For the season, Buehrle produced a Major League-best 11 pickoffs to increase this MLB-leading pickoff total to 74 since 2001 when Buehrle became a starter. Buehrle has 78 career pickoffs.
Opposing basestealers have been successful on just 46 of 107 attempts during Buehrle's career, checking in at a paltry 43 percent. During the 2010 season, Buehrle helped limit basestealers to six successful stolen bases in 12 attempts.
About the only people who didn't seem to like Buehrle's pickoff move or his attempt to hold on runners were umpire Joe West and possibly his crew, including Angel Hernandez. West called two balks against Buehrle in Cleveland on May 26, when the left-hander was ejected after 2 1/3 scoreless innings for arguing the second balk. Buehrle was charged with two more balks on Sept. 10 against the Royals, with West again being on this particular umpiring crew.
Four balks for Buehrle, all coming in these two games. So, does this latest defensive award stand as some sort of vindication for Buehrle over this crew? Yes and no.
"Some teams might agree I'm balking," said Buehrle, who also won his second straight Fielding Bible award as baseball's top defender at his position. "I've been doing that move for so long and balks haven't been called. I didn't think I balked in those calls."
A 1.000 fielding percentage over 50 total chances left Buehrle tied for the lead among AL pitchers. He tied for second among AL pitchers by assisting on four double plays and ranked third with 46 assists. His 50 chances were the most among AL pitchers who did not commit an error and marked the third time in Buehrle's career he has gone a full campaign without a miscue.
Although this Gold Glove goes to Buehrle, he gave credit to teammates. Buehrle praised shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who was beat out by Derek Jeter for the award, for his great range. He credited bench coach Joey Cora for calling the pickoffs and gave props to Konerko for saving him an error or two with his plays at first.
Joining Buehrle and Jeter among the AL honorees were Joe Mauer (catcher), Mark Teixeira (first base), Robinson Cano (second), Evan Longoria (third base) and Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford and Franklin Gutierrez in the outfield. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen called Seattle's Gutierrez the AL best defensive outfielder during the past season.
Only Buehrle's Gold Glove, though, had a bit of advance notice thanks to his extremely proud wife, Jamie, and her Monday Facebook post congratulating her husband as a "two-time Gold Glove winner." That post disappeared quickly, but Jamie celebrated Tuesday and had a little fun with the group of reporters covering her husband over the past 10 years.
"Since I will no longer be "leaking it to the media" I would like to say how proud I am of my husband for being a TWO time gold glove winner now. Lesson learned Chicago media," said Buehrle's wife, with a smile emoticon at the end.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.