Notes: Hunter Buehrle bags bear
Pitcher joins Thome, Dye, Pierzynski in outdoor adventure
MINNEAPOLIS -- Mark Buehrle considers himself an avid outdoorsman, along with his professional title of White Sox pitcher. The same description holds true for Jim Thome, though he is known more for hitting home runs than throwing the baseball.
So, it only stands to reason that, once Thome joined the White Sox two years ago, Buehrle had his sights set on not only winning a World Series title with his friend and teammate, but also venturing forth on a hunting trip. On Saturday night, one hour south of Winnipeg, Canada, Buehrle had the latter wish fulfilled.
Buehrle, Thome, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski took a bear-hunting trip following Saturday's victory, an excursion set up by Twins broadcaster Dan Gladden on the property of a friend. Buehrle made the only kill of the day, using a bow, but it turned into a memorable moment with Thome right beside him.
"[It was] just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially going with Jimmy," Buehrle said. "When we got out there, the guy said we could hunt [separately]. But my main thing [was], I wanted to be in the stand with Jim Thome. I turned down hunting by myself to be with him.
"We weren't together together, but we were close enough [that] he got me on video. First, getting to bear hunt and then getting to hunt with him was more special."
The quartet went hunting at about 6 p.m. CT, giving them about one hour before the sun set. The kill was made from about 20 yards away, and the bear ran about another 30 yards before going down. Buehrle plans to have the head stuffed and have a necklace made out of a bear claw. He added with a smile that Jon Garland expressed interest in getting one, too.
The kill, which seemed to be a proud moment for the whole group, came in for a little ribbing from manager Ozzie Guillen, who said the bear was not even as big as pitching coach Don Cooper. Buehrle and his teammates also have a video shot by Thome as a keepsake of this evening's events.
"When [Thome] first signed and got traded over, he actually called up and left me a message saying, 'I'm happy to be your teammate, and I hope we can get together and hang out,'" said Buehrle of Thome. "I saved it forever.
"I was so excited Jim Thome called me. I was showing my buddies, and [my wife] Jamie still laughs at me to this day how excited I was. Just him being a hunter, and he's a great guy. He hit 500 home runs and is a future Hall of Famer, hopefully. Just everything, it kind of adds up. Just to be out in the woods with him was awesome."
Official change: Buehrle will be replaced by Lance Broadway in his scheduled final start on Thursday. Cooper joked on Saturday that if Buehrle killed a bear on the hunt, he didn't have to pitch on Thursday.
"I said that if someone else shoots one, I'm taking a picture of it and saying I did it," Buehrle said with a laugh.
Handling pressure: Moving from the Minor Leagues to playing third base for the White Sox, then shifting to left field before returning to third would figure to foster its fair share of pressure for rookie Josh Fields. But as a former quarterback at a major program like Oklahoma St., Fields learned about pressure early on and never doubts the career choice he made.
Getting intercepted four times in one game and then dealing with the media all week -- now, that's intense athletic scrutiny.
"In baseball, you can have a horrible game if you're a starting pitcher, and then wait five days to pitch again," Fields said. "But whatever happens the next day will overshadow your day, and the media moves on. In football, you are getting asked questions on Thursday before the next game about last Saturday.
"That's tough, because you want to clear it out of your mind. I remember my career days, but it doesn't overshadow the bad days. That's why I'm very happy in baseball, where I can move on to the next day and do something different."
Attention to detail: Darin Erstad's start at first base in Sunday's series finale against the Twins stood as his 18th game at that particular position this season. Moving between the outfield and first base on a semi-regular basis has been one of the many necessary adjustments the veteran has had to make during his first year with the White Sox.
"I've always pretty much played one position in a season," said Erstad, who really didn't carry a utility tag until his injury-plagued final season with the Angels in 2006. "But it's something that, if my career is going to go any further, I'm going to have to learn how to do multiple things.
"I'm still comfortable [at first base]. I'm not as comfortable as I would be if I practiced over there every day."
Although Erstad won a Gold Glove at first base in 2004, one of the reasons he chose the White Sox as a free agent was the opportunity to return to the outfield. But even for a player big on preparation, the switch between positions has been a positive learning experience for Erstad.
"You're still prepared, but it's not like when you do it every day," said Erstad, who has played 54 games in the outfield this season. "At that point, it's basically like you can close your eyes and do it. Now, there is a little more thinking that goes into it, just to refresh certain aspects of the game."
Around the horn: With seven games remaining, including Sunday's series finale with the Twins, the White Sox need 17 home runs to reach 200 for the eighth straight season. Only the Yankees and White Sox have reached that mark in seven straight years, both on a current streak, with the Yankees needing five more long balls to get to 200 in 2007. ... Despite reaching 200 strikeouts for the third time in his career, Javier Vazquez didn't seem ready to celebrate the accomplishment. "Seriously, a strikeout is a good number to have on the back of your card," Vazquez said. "But it's not indicative of how you pitch. A lot of people don't strike out hitters and have good seasons." ... Thome is hitting .333 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 14 games against the Twins this season, including working at a .542 clip over his last seven. Thome also has homered in six straight games against Minnesota.
On deck: The final homestand of 2007 begins Tuesday night against Kansas City, with Jose Contreras (10-16, 5.51) on the mound. Contreras carries a 4-0 record with a 2.83 ERA over his last five starts into his 31st appearance of the season.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.