White Sox ready to get rolling
As the first pitch of the season approaches, the obvious question is: Can the White Sox win the AL Central this season?
They came close last year, occupying first place for most of the season before running out of gas at the end, dropping 10 of 12 down the stretch while falling into second place and missing the playoffs.
The Sox enter this current season with low expectations from outsiders, mainly because the Detroit Tigers added Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez returns to a roster that is already loaded with talent.
Many "experts" are picking the White Sox to finish third in the division behind the Tigers and Kansas City Royals, who are today's opponent.
We'll see how it plays out, but new general manager Rick Hahn expects another competitive season.
"Our expectations are high," Hahn said. "Every baseball fan has the right to be optimistic on Opening Day and we are no different in terms of our expectations for this year from any other person looking from the outside at their favorite team. That being said, we have reason to believe we are going to be strong 1 through 12 in the pitching staff.
"There are going to be key elements from our offense that hopefully take the next step forward and we plan on being in this to the end. Someone pointed out to me a few minutes ago (the White Sox) were in first place 117 days last year. That's quite an accomplishment. While it is, I think this team's focus now is being in first place only on one day and that's at the end of this season."
-When the starting lineups are introduced in about 90 minutes, Paul Konerko should be on the receiving end of the loudest ovation.
Konerko will make his 13th straight start at first base. Considering he's 37 and in the final year of his contract, this could be the captain's last rodeo on the South Side.
Then again, it is way too early to speculate on Konerko's future.
"First, in terms of what he means to the organization, I'm probably not suited to properly put into words how important a player he has been to this organization," Hahn said of Konerko. "He's the type of guy who in all probability you will see his number added to that (retired) list some day hanging out on our outfield wall. He's a stabilizing presence in our clubhouse and an essential part of our on-field performance.
"In terms of whether the likelihood of him coming back, we've been down this path twice before, both two years ago and seven years ago. I think at least on one of those occasions we ran the tribute video in his last at-bat. I'm sure we'll do that at the end of this season. Each time we've been able to work something out. It's been a matter at the end of the season sitting down with Paul and hearing where his thoughts are and our thoughts are and being able to come to some sort of agreement."
-Hahn referenced the retired numbers, which used to be located on the fence in left-center field along with the player's silhouette.
Nellie Fox (No. 2), Harold Baines (3), Luke Appling (4), Minnie Minoso (9), Luis Aparicio (11), Ted Lyons (16), Billy Pierce (19), Carlton Fisk (72) and Jackie Robinson (42) have been relocated to the façade above The Stadium Club down the right-field line, minus the silhouettes.
The left-center field fence now features two advertisements, which comes as no surprise after a disappointing 2012 at the gate for the White Sox.