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White Sox’ Mark Buehrle takes bow, but his future still unclear

Mark Buehrle acknowledges fans (above) as he is taken out game top eighth inning Thursday night U.S. Cellular Field. |

Mark Buehrle acknowledges the fans (above) as he is taken out of the game in the top of the eighth inning Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 11, 2011 4:36PM

Even White Sox general manager Ken Williams, the man who could hold the answer, doesn’t know if Mark Buehrle pitched his last game for the team Tuesday.

‘‘It’s similar to the Paul Konerko situation last year [when Konerko was a free agent],’’ Williams said. ‘‘I’m not sure. We don’t know where we’re going with our plan just yet. We don’t know where our payroll is going to be, where our projects will be via marketing, promotions, advertising. All of that has to come into the mix, and we just don’t know where we are.’’

If it was the end, it came in
Buehrle style — a quick-paced, 2-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays that put him at 13-9 for the season and
161-119 in his career.

‘‘I was more nervous leading up to the game,’’ Buehrle said. ‘‘I told Konerko, don’t try doing anything like we did with him last year.’’

But that fell on deaf ears.

‘‘It couldn’t have come off any better,’’ pitching coach/interim manager Don Cooper said of Buehrle walking out at the top of the eighth — but his teammates staying in the dugout so he could have the moment.

Buehrle found himself alone on the mound as Cooper came out, with home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom tossing Cooper the ball to give to Buehrle. Cooper and Buehrle embraced before Buehrle left, his teammates and the U.S. Cellular Field crowd applauding. He tipped his cap, bowed and waved, hugging his teammates one by one as they went to the field. Then he hugged those in the dugout before a curtain call.

‘‘It felt like a normal game, but the crowd going crazy [when he walked off] and Paul pushing me out there,’’ Buehrle said. ‘‘I never had a curtain call in my career. It was emotional.’’

His performance was stellar: seven innings of six-hit, scoreless ball with six strikeouts.

‘‘If he’s not here, it’s going to be a big void in a lot of ways,’’ Cooper said.

‘‘I don’t know if this was my last game,’’ Buehrle said. ‘‘I’ve been doing this 13, 14 years, and this is all I know. It’s hard to think otherwise. This is my home, but there will be a lot of stuff we’ll look at. Deep down inside, I’d like to be back, but it depends on which way they [the Sox] go.’’

Buehrle’s potential goodbye a day after manager Ozzie Guillen’s exit made for a strange final week for the Sox. If Williams had arm’s-length farewells for Guillen, he was effusive toward Buehrle.

‘‘One of the most pleasant and enjoyable people to be around, and consistent over the years,’’ Williams said. ‘‘He and his wife, in regards to the charitable work they do, just are the epitome of what you want. Just a great player, but also a great person. You don’t think of that kind of guy having a one-hitter, much less multiple no-hitters, and he just knows how to do it. He knows how to get it done, and he gets it done with fun — and I like it because he gets it done fast, too. You can make dinner plans.’’

For now, though, all plans are on hold.

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