PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania - Mark Buehrle, long regarded as one of the fastest working pitchers in baseball, was at his efficient best in the Blue Jays 1-0 win over the Phillies on Friday night.
"I was kind of disappointed that I felt so good today," said Buehrle. "I wish I would have saved it for a different game day when it counted. With the lights, a big league stadium, the stands, there's something about it. It's kind of easy to flip the switch and just, you know tonight didn't count but it's a totally different feeling. It's kind of hard to explain."
Translation: Buehrle's eager for the regular season to get underway.
Buehrle pitched five scoreless innings, allowing only two first inning singles, striking out five including the side in the second. Buehrle threw 58 pitches, 34 for strikes. Thanks in equal measure to his counterpart Cliff Lee, the first four innings were played in 44 minutes. The game was done in two hours and five minutes. On a crisp Philadelphia night, nobody was complaining.
"That's what he does," said manager John Gibbons. "He's not always going to throw shutout innings but you go through spring training, he's a veteran guy and he got hit around a little bit in spring training. But you turn the lights on and he knows it's his last start before the season starts. You turn it up a notch. Same way with Lee and we faced Lee down there in spring training, hit him around a little bit. But the same thing with him, he knows the season is about to start. Those guys have been around a long time; they know what they need to do and tonight was a prime example for them."
Blue Jays' relievers followed Buehrle's lead, allowing just two hits over the Phillies' final four offensive innings. No Phillies batter drew a walk all night.
Brett Cecil pitched a quick sixth, working around a two-out single. He credited Buehrle for setting the tone.
"I think you want to carry that through the whole ballgame, whether you're out there in the sixth, seventh, eighth, whatever," said Cecil. "You want to get in there and keep it going. They only got two hits off of him in five innings so obviously it was working, that quick tempo, you want to be mindful of that and keep it going."
The Blue Jays gave Buehrle the option of staying in Florida for his final spring tune up, which would have come against minor league competition. The 34-year-old veteran opted to travel with his teammates to Philadelphia, where Friday's game-time temperature was 11C, complete with typically brisk early-spring air.
"We're going to be pitching in cold weather so I wanted to do that," said Buehrle. "Pitch under the lights, pitch against a big league team so obviously everything worked and felt great. (It was) a good way to go in to the season."
JANSSEN, OLIVER WILL JOIN TEAMMATES ON MONDAY
Relievers Casey Janssen and Darren Oliver are making their final spring appearances in minor league games in Florida.
Janssen was scheduled to work on Sunday before catching a flight to Toronto.
Josh Johnson will start the Blue Jays' final spring training game, a 1:05 ET first pitch at Citizens Bank Park. Kyle Kendrick will pitch for the Phillies.