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Jesse Crain builds strong case for All-Star consideration


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The facts: 7:10 p.m., CSN, ­670-AM, 97.5-FM.

The starters: Chien-Ming Wang (season debut) vs. Jose Quintana (3-2, 3.95 ERA).

Updated: June 10, 2013 11:03PM

Relief pitchers who aren’t closers rarely get consideration for the All-Star team, but the White Sox have a sound candidate in Jesse Crain.

The right-hander entered Monday’s game ranked first among American League relief pitchers in ERA (0.63) and holds (16) and tied for third in appearances (31).

Crain is on a career-best stretch of 25 consecutive scoreless appearances — with 33 strikeouts in a 24 innings. The streaks are the longest by a Sox reliever since J.J. Putz pitched 27 scoreless appearances and 27 scoreless innings in 2010.

“I don’t know many guys in the league doing better than him,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “If we’re tied or winning, he’s coming in.

“Whether you’re a closer or not, you don’t get the ‘save’ [credit] next to your name. But he should get some kind of classification because it’s a save [he contributes to].’’

Buehrle’s back

Mark Buehrle spent 12 seasons with the Sox, becoming one of the best pitchers in franchise history. His return to U.S. Cellular Field for the first time as a visitor Monday brought nostalgia for Buehrle and his former teammates.

“It’s funny seeing him in a different uniform,’’ said Chris Sale, who was one of the young pitchers Buehrle mentored.

“The main thing he taught was throw strikes. He would fill up the zone. And to keep a good tempo — you’re your defense in it while they’re out there.

“What I remember is the pace of the games he kept, how he never gave up no matter the situation. He was throwing strikes and pumping them pretty quick, just keeping a good tempo.

“He joked around the day I came in on my signing day. He said, ‘This is going to be the guy who takes my job one day.’ He was great from Day 1.’’

Buehrle, whose first victory for the Blue Jays came on April 15 against the Sox in Toronto, said he felt “normal’’ coming back.

“Getting off the plane last night a couple of the baggage handlers said ‘Welcome back, Mr. Buehrle.’ I stayed out in the suburbs last night, got to see my family there [his parents are here for the three-game series as well]. I had some lunch where I always ate.

“To be honest, it felt normal.’’

Buehrle (2-4) won’t face the Sox this week, but the crowd cheered him Monday during a first-inning video tribute.

He waved and tipped his cap in appreciation.

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