Whether it was their goal or not, Kansas City made an awfully strong statement to begin the season.
While the White Sox received plenty of plaudits for their whirlwind offseason, the Royals had a relatively quiet winter and lost key players James Shields and Billy Butler. The result was prognosticators picking the White Sox to win the AL Central at a far higher rate than the Royals, despite Kansas City's 2014 run to the World Series.
So a three-game sweep in which the Royals dismantled the White Sox served as a reminder of just how good the Western Missouri club could be.
But the White Sox didn't have ace Chris Sale or setup man Jake Petricka for that series. 2014 No. 3 overall pick Carlos Rodon wasn't in the majors yet, either. Those three guys are here for the four-game series with Kansas City that opens Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field, but the White Sox aren't approaching it like they need to make a major statement to the reigning American League champions.
"I’d like us to play better than we did the last time against them," manager Robin Ventura wryly said. "Statement series, that’s probably a bit much, but you want to play good baseball -- that’s the statement you want to make. I think guys are swinging it a little better and pitchers are doing well and that’s the stuff you really look for. I’d rather us play better baseball than make a statement to them. I’d rather make a statement for ourselves."
Center fielder Adam Eaton said the idea of statements or getting fired up for series like this is overblown -- "It doesn’t matter who’s out there, it could be a high school team, we want to take three out of four," he said -- even if the 11-4 Royals have come firing out of the gate.
At 6-8, the White Sox have leveled out since Kansas City throttled them to open the season. Getting Sale -- who's starting Thursday night against Royals ace Yordano Ventura -- has been the biggest boost. And it's one the White Sox will need to avoid another string of thorough defeats over the next few days.
"They’re very athletic and they’ve been playing well so you have to be able to use everybody and everybody needs to kind of be in their spot and be available," Ventura said. "It’s big for us to have Chris back at any time, but especially when you’re going up against a team and the way we started with these guys. You always want to feel complete when you’re competing with somebody as good as these guys."