The Royals are in a win-now mode and believe they are poised to make a big jump in the AL Central starting with Monday's opener against the Chicago White Sox."There's no reason we shouldn't be better," Butler said Sunday. "How much better that is? I'm not a mind reader. I'm not a projector. ... Our talent's higher than it's ever been since I've been here."
After going 72-90 for their 17th losing season in 18 years, they believe they're ready to become a winner."We're still young, we're still growing," manager Ned Yost said. "We're going to have ups and we're going to have downs, but I think we're in a much better position to be successful this year just because of the maturity factor."
While the Royals made some big moves, including a trade with Tampa Bay for ace James Shields , the White Sox largely kept their roster intact. Even so, they believe they have enough to challenge Detroit for the AL Central title.
They led the division for 117 days last season before a 2-10 slide in late September dropped them to 85-77, three games behind Detroit.
Chicago's biggest offseason moves were re-signing pitcher Jake Peavy before he could become a free agent and giving a five-year deal to Chris Sale - the opening-night starter - after a 17-win season. The White Sox also shuffled their front office, promoting Rick Hahn to general manager and Ken Williams to executive vice president, and let catcher A.J. Pierzynski sign with Texas.
As for splashy additions? They left that to the rest of the division."I'll drop the Florida Gulf Coast here," Sale said, referring to his alma mater's run to the regional semifinals in the NCAA tournament. "Nobody expected them to win anything. They didn't have a big bandwagon or fan base to start with. If you believe in yourselves, that can take you a long way. We all believe in ourselves and in each other. We're going to get this thing going - and get it going right away."
Where it'll end is difficult to predict."We have a solid team," Gordon Beckham said. "It's six months away from when we'll know if we're going to the playoffs or not. Do we have a chance? Yeah. But I think 30 teams have a chance."
Kansas City appears to have improved. The Royals re-signed Jeremy Guthrie after he dazzled in a short stint with them last season, and they acquired Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels . The deal for Shields cost them top prospect Wil Myers ."That's the first time we've ever made a move to help out the big league team," Butler said. "Usually, we're stocking the system. Our big league team's gotten to the point where we needed to make a move to help out the big league team because we have talent and we needed to trade some prospects for major league. It doesn't get more exciting than that."
|Alejandro De Aza||7||.286||2||0||1||1||0||.375||.661||.286|
|Kansas City Royals|
|March 22, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|Chicago White Sox|
|March 22, 2013||Leyson Septimo||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|March 22, 2013||John Danks||15-Day DL||Recovery from left shoulder surgery|
CHICAGO (AP) -- For all the deep breaths he took before the game, Chris Sale sure was a picture of calm once he stepped on the mound. More important for the White Sox, he was the definition of dominant.
Sale outpitched James Shields , Tyler Flowers homered and the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0 in the season opener on Monday.
The White Sox believe they're in position to make a run at the AL Central title even though they made no splashy additions while the rest of the division loaded up. They're off to a good start after a late fade left them three games behind Detroit a year ago.
A dominant performance by Sale and Flowers' drive leading off the fifth against Shields were just enough to beat a team that's trying to make a big jump after finishing with a losing record 17 of the past 18 seasons. It also gave the White Sox a rare win over the Royals, who took 12 of 18 from them a year ago.
Sale was a first-round draft pick in 2010 out of Florida Gulf Coast University, whose basketball team was the darlings of this year's NCAA men's tournament. He said the toughest part of Monday's game was the wait beforehand. But he watched other games and took deep breaths, trying to clear his mind.
"I tried not to hurt myself with my own thoughts," he said.
Sale (1-0) showed the form that made him a 17-game winner and an All-Star in his first season as a starter. On a chilly day when the game-time temperature was 44, he allowed just seven hits and struck out seven while walking one.
Sale got an assist in the seventh when second baseman Gordon Beckham dived to his right to snag Lorenzo Cain 's line drive with a runner on first, and he left to a standing ovation after Alcides Escobar 's single with two outs in the eighth.
Nate Jones came in and, after Escobar stole second, threw a wild pitch while walking Billy Butler to put runners on first and third. Matt Thornton then struck out Mike Moustakas on three pitches to end the threat, and Addison Reed worked the ninth for the save.
Sale, meanwhile, backed up the White Sox's decision to reward him with a new five-year deal this spring and the opening day start.
"I think a lot of stuff's been thrown at him in spring training," manager Robin Ventura said. "He gets the contract, he gets the opening day. There's a lot of expectations of him, but that all comes with it."
He said Sale has "come along great."
And Butler was impressed: "He's been pitching pretty well the last year and had another really good game out there.
Shields (0-1) was a tough-luck loser even though he gave the Royals exactly what they envisioned when they acquired him from Tampa Bay. The former All-Star lasted six innings, allowing just one run and eight hits while striking out six without a walk.
Along with the addition of Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles Angels and the re-signing of Jeremy Guthrie after he dazzled in a short stint with Kansas City last season, the Royals believe they have the arms to challenge reigning division champion Detroit and make the playoffs for the first time since the 1985 championship season.
"That's exactly what I expect," manager Ned Yost said. "We get further into the year and he'd go back out. That's how good he was throwing the ball. Early, I limit them to 100 pitches. Guys like James and Santana and Guthrie take your 100 pitches and go to work."
Chicago finally broke through when Flowers drove a high 2-2 changeup out to left-center leading off the fifth. It was his first homer since he went deep against Kansas City last Sept. 8, and it was a promising sight for the organization. After all, one reason the White Sox let A.J. Pierzynski sign with Texas was they believed Flowers was ready to become the everyday catcher.
"If every day could be like today, it'll be fine," Flowers said. "I really don't think about it much. Hopefully, in a couple weeks or a couple months, I'll quit getting asked all these questions about A.J. and what size shoe I wear."
Notes: White Sox LHP John Danks said he hasn't experienced any setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery. "I'm still working up from surgery," he said. "I'm not even seven months (removed from it). We put a put a pretty generous, quick timetable on it. I was disappointed. I truly thought I was going to be ready. We just ran out of time." Danks started last year's opener, but made just nine starts - all before mid-May - and had surgery Aug. 6 to repair a capsule tear and remove debris in his rotator cuff and biceps. He plans to go back to Arizona for more workouts and will go on a rehab assignment before he returns. "As it sits right now, he feels good, which is a positive," general manager Rick Hahn said. ... Santana makes his Royals debut Wednesday, with Jake Peavy starting for Chicago.