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For Openers…De Aza Homers Twice, Sale Shines, Eaton and Abreu Excel in Debuts as Sox Defeat Twins

Monday, March 31, 2014

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Opening Day News

The Game

At U.S. Cellular Field in front of a sellout crowd of 37,422 on a beautiful 65 degree (at game time) day.

Twins           3    7  0

White Sox    5  11  0

Plays of the Day

Alejandro De Aza blasted a pair of homers, a two-run shot in the second inning (click on link below to watch video), which put the Sox on the board, and a solo blast in the sixth–giving him his first career multi-homer game. He becomes the first White Sox player to hit two home runs on Opening Day since Jim Thome accomplished it in 2008 at Cleveland and is the first Sox player to hit two homers in a home opener since Minnie Minoso in 1960 vs. the Kansas City A’s…In their Sox debuts, Adam Eaton went 2-4 with a run scored and Jose Abreu was 2-4, including a double, with an RBI and run scored. Chris Sale got the winallowing three runs, five hits, and a lone walk while striking out seven in 7.1 IP.

Matt Lindstrom, named the closer earlier in the day, earned the save.

http://atmlb.com/QzZ1qh    

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Sox Notes of Note

The White Sox 25-man roster includes 12 pitchers (five lefties), two catchers, seven infielders and four outfielders…New to the organization are INF Abreu , RHP Belisario, RHP Maikel Cleto, LHP Scott Downs, OF Eaton, C Adrian Nieto and RHP Felipe Paulino…the average age of the club is 27.8 down from 29.6 in 2013. INF Paul Konerko is the oldest player at 38, OF Avi Garcia is the youngest at 22…Abreu, Eaton, A. Garcia, Erik Johnson, Nieto, Marcus Semien and Daniel Webb open the season on a major-league roster for the first time…the Opening Day roster features six rookies–Abreu, Cleto, Johnson, Nieto, Semien and Webb–the most since 1999 (also six). By comparison, there were no rookies on the Sox season-opening roster in 2013…Konerko enters his 16th and final season with the Sox, tied with Frank Thomas (1990-2005) for the fifth longest tenure in club history. Only Hall of Famers RHP Ted Lyons (21 years), SS Luke Appling (20), RHP Red Faber (20) and C Ray Schalk (17) rank ahead of them in this category…Also, Paulie needs five total bases and 21 home runs to tie Thomas’ club records.

Paulie’s Final Opening Day Intro

https://vine.co/v/Me6HT3BVrQw

Opening Day Celebrations

First person I saw at the ballpark early this morning was Roger Bossard, who did a masterful job of getting the field ready. He is celebrating Opening Day #48. For Jeff Szynal, who is in charge of our scoreboard operations, it’s Opening Day #31.

Me, Opening Day #24 (23 with the White Sox).

Best Memories from Opening Day?

High on my list is Bo Jackson’s dramatic return from hip replacement surgery to homer in his very first at-bat in 1993. Here’s that memorable moment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS-Az6n5tTc

Quote of the Day

GM Rick Hahn, in an interview this morning on the McNeil and Spiegel Show on 670 The Score, talked about what it will take for the Sox to contend:

“If that’s going to be the case for us, it’s going to be for two main reasons. First, the starting pitching is going to stay together — John Danks being 18 months post-op is going to return to form, being that guy he was before (and) Chris Sale and Jose Quintana continuing on the upswing that we’ve seen from them the first few years. Additionally, some of our young players are going to wind up immediately (reaching their) ceiling. Not obviously saying that’s going to happen, but in that best-case scenario, Adam Eaton’s going to show you that ability to get on base, run, play defense the way he’s shown throughout his minor league career. Avisail Garcia’s going to not only hit for power but also average and improve that plate discipline a little bit. Jose Abreu’s going to be the same player he was in Cuba. All those guys have that upside. We certainly believe they’re going to reach that upside. Whether that starts on March 31st or it starts midway through the year, that’s for us to play out here.”

Tomorrow’s Schedule

Off Day. On Wednesday, White Sox vs. Twins at U.S. Cellular Field (1:10 p.m., CT, CSN). Starters: RHP Paulino for the Sox, RHP Kevin Correia for Minnesota.

Photo of the Day

Chicago native Aja Evans, who won a bronze medal in bobsled at the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, threw out today’s ceremonial first pitch.

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Opening Day Preview and More

Sunday, March 30, 2014

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Tomorrow’s Activities

The Game

White Sox vs. Twins at U.S. Cellular Field (3:10p.m., CT, CSN). Starters: LHP Chris Sale for the Sox, RHP Ricky Nolasco for Minnesota. Sale ranked among the American League leaders in virtually every category in 2013, including complete games (T1st, 4), SO/BB ratio (2nd, 4.91), WHIP (3rd, 1.07), strikeouts (3rd, 226), quality starts (T4th, 23), SO/9.0 IP (6th, 9.49), ERA (7th, 3.07) and opponents average (7th, .230).

There’s a great weather forecast for tomorrow and just under 3,000 tickets remaining.

Opening Day Roster:

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National Anthem

Gina Glocksen, former American Idol contestant. The Tinley Park native was the ninth-place finalist on the mega-hit TV show’s sixth season.

Presentation of the Flag:

Navy Recruiting District Chicago and the Naval Service Training Command Great Lakes.

Ceremonial First Pitch:

Aja Evans, a South Side native who was an Olympic bobsled bronze medalist this past February in Sochi, Russia. She is currently training to compete in the heptathlon for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Aja is a cousin of Del Matthews, White Sox assistant director of player development and scouting.

Promotional Giveaway

White Sox Magnetic Schedule presented by Miller Lite for all fans ages 21 and over.

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Facts & Figures

* The White Sox are 59-54 overall on Opening Day and 27-23 when opening at home. They are 5-1 at U.S. Cellular Field. The Sox’s 59 Opening Day wins are third most in the American League. Only the Orioles (65) and the Yankees (64) have won more season openers.

* The Sox have won 11 of their last 17 openers and 11 of their last 12 home openers.

* Sale, who is celebrating his 25th birthday today, will be making his second consecutive Opening Day start. He earned the victory last season with 7.2 scoreless innings against the Royals.

* This is the 14th time in the last 15 seasons that the Sox have started a left-hander on Opening Day. Jose Contreras in 2007 was the only righty during that span.

Quotes of the Day

* Paulie in his own words as told to Daryl Van Shouwen in the Sun-Times (top link) and Chris Rongey on White Sox Weekly.

http://bit.ly/1dCzPt4

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/audio/986-670-the-score-interviews/paul-konerko-with-white-sox-live-32614/#.Uzch7Yrw1K0.twitter

* Marcus Semien and Adrian Nieto (pictured below) on looking forward to their first Opening Day, via Scott Merkin at whitesox.com.

Marcus:

“I’m excited for it. It’s going to be way more people than Birmingham Opening Day or something like that. I’ve never been a part of one. I’ve never been to one as a kid, so I’m excited.”

Adrian:

“I can’t wait. I’m pumped to see all the great things I’ve heard [about Chicago]. “It’s probably the best city in America.”

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Sox Notes of Note

Cold Arrival

When the 2014 White Sox arrived at Midway Airport early Saturday morning, they faced a significant temperature drop from Arizona.

Some – like Alexei Ramirez – came prepared, whipping out stocking caps.  Robin sported a ski cap and down vest.  Others dealt as best they could as we waited on the tarmac for our luggage to come off the plane.  Imagine the immense Avisail Garcia wrapped in United Airlines blankets … it was brisk.

Kudos

To groundskeeper Roger Bossard and his crew for doing an amazing job on the field. Considering the photos and video we saw while in Arizona, it is amazing that the field is even ready for Opening Day.  But then Roger is the master.

When I arrived at the park this morning around 8:30, I stopped outside to see Roger.  There he stood, hose in hand.

“Watering?!?!” I yelled.  “After all that, you are watering?!?!?”

“First time in three weeks,” he laughed.  “I’m just happy we finally have some sunshine.”

The Bus

I jokingly had a saying when I traveled regularly that “The team bus never waits for the PR guy.”  How true.

After Friday’s exhibition game in Birmingham, Assistant GM Buddy Bell and I got to the bus right after the last out since neither of us needed to head down to the clubhouse (by the way, the Birmingham ballpark is terrific and if any fans have the chance, they should take in a Barons game or two this summer.)

We immediately sat down and started to watch Kentucky-Louisville on Buddy’s iPad. After about 25 minutes, something didn’t seem right.  No one else had gotten on the bus.

So I texted our traveling secretary … “Where are you?”

“On the bus.  We just left,” he replied.

What!!! (unbeknownst to us we were on a bus from the same company that was scheduled to take a group of minor leaguers back to the hotel).

“You are going to have to take a cab to the airport.”

Well, catching a cab in Birmingham after a game is no easy task.  And there is no Uber in Birmingham either (just so you know).

Thinking fast, Buddy called Julio Vinas, the Barons’ manager.  Julio was still at the park and was willing to give us a ride to the airport.

We got there just on the tail of the others going through screening.

“How do you miss the bus,” a kind TSA woman chided us as we walked up.

(You know your day is going badly when you are getting crap from a TSA agent, but anyway.)

You can imagine the reception we got when we arrived on the plane.

Didn’t miss the flight, though.

When in Birmingham…

Enjoyed lunch with Rick Hahn at Jim & Nick’s BBQ while in Birmingham.  While it is a chain, we really enjoyed the meal, especially the cheese biscuits, turkey and brisket.  Don’t miss it!

Boggs Signs Minor-League Deal

Right-handed reliever Mitchell Boggs, who was released by the White Sox during spring training, has signed a minor-league contract with the Sox.

Spring Training Wrapup

Camelback Ranch-Glendale recorded its highest per-game attendance this season in its six-year history hosting the White Sox and Dodgers. The facility averaged 8.087 fans per game this spring, eclipsing the previous high of 7,635 in 2010. A total of 202, 164 fans visited “The Ranch” this spring training. A record six games were sellouts and there was a 15.4 percent increase in per-game attendance from 2013 to 2014.

Jose Abreu hit .341 with two home runs and eight RBI in his last 12 Cactus League (CL) games…Adam Eaton reached base base in 16 of his 19 CL games and finished the spring with a .368 average…Semien finished the CL schedule with a six-game hitting streak. He batted .318 with a double, homer and six RBI over that span. Donnie Veal allowed just six hits over 10 CL innings pitched…John Danks worked five innings in each of his last four spring starts…On Friday night, the Sox downed the Class AA affiliate Birmingham Barons, 5-2, in front of a Regions Field record crowd of 8.513. Conor Gillaspie had three hits and drove in a run.

Photo of the Day

With a right-hander on the mound for Minnesota, PK will not be in the Opening Day starting lineup for the first time since 1998. It was his decision. He didn’t want to go against the Sox’ plan of primarily DHing against him lefties and spelling Abreu at first base. A class act to be sure.

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