The Kansas City Royals are a trendy pick to make the postseason for the first time since 1985, when George Brett led the club to its only World Series title.
After a couple of tough walk-off losses on the road, the Royals will finally get a chance to show off their revamped roster to the home faithful when right-hander Jeremy Guthrie takes the mound against righty Erik Johnson and the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
Thursday's game at Detroit was rained out, washing away some of the excitement of rookie flamethrower Yordano Ventura's season debut. But the rainout didn't dampen the team's excitement for the home opener.
"We do [get pumped up] more for our home opener than we do a road opener, I'll tell you that," manager Ned Yost said. "These players are excited to get back home and play in front of our fans. With the way they supported us last year, the energy they brought, we're looking forward to getting back to Kansas City for that. It's a big day, no doubt."
Left fielder Alex Gordon said that the home opener is indeed exciting but added that the pageantry surrounding it can become distracting.
"That's not how a regular day works. It's fun, it's exciting," Gordon said. "But as a baseball player, I think you like your set routine and how things work, so I think everyone is a little glad to get it over with and move on."
Guthrie has made five previous starts against the Sox, going 3-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. The five starts ties for the most he's made against one team (Twins), while the innings are second only to the 34 he's tossed against Minnesota.
Sox captain Paul Konerko said Guthrie is difficult to face because he has evolved from a pure-power pitcher to a veteran capable of effectively mixing up his pitches, and that the Sox will have to figure out which of those pitches Guthrie has working well.
"You kind of have to wait and see when you get out there," said Konerko, who has hit .265 with four homers off Guthrie in 49 at-bats. "He's definitely crafty, and he's still got really good stuff, so he's a challenge. Their whole rotation is a challenge."
Chicago will look to rebound from a disappointing 10-9 loss to Minnesota on Thursday in which it blew a late three-run lead. The bullpen has allowed nine runs in 10 1/3 innings pitched (8.02 ERA) and will have to do better against the Royals if the Sox want to perform better against division opponents than they did a year ago.
Off to a 2-1 start against the American League Central after the opening series with the Twins, Chicago set a franchise record for losses within the division in 2013 with a 26-50 record.
"You always want to play well in your division, no question," Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Last year, we weren't very good in our division and some people probably made the playoffs because of our won and lost record. But every team is going to be tough -- Kansas City, every team is tough. We're just going to play."
White Sox: Jones again experiences discomfort in left glute
Right-handed reliever Nate Jones didn't last long Thursday after taking over for starter Jose Quintana to open the seventh inning.
Jones was pulled after starting the inning with back-to-back walks to Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer with discomfort in his left glute. It's the same injury that kept him out the bulk of Spring Training.
He said he first felt the discomfort when he was warming up in the bullpen and that it didn't get any better once he got on the mound. He received treatment on the injury and will have it re-evaluated Friday.
"It's kinda just in the back of your head," said Jones of the effect the discomfort had when he was on the mound. "When you're thinking about something else besides hitting the mitt, then you see what happens. It's not good for the team."
Royals: Ventura to be available in bullpen this weekend
Rather than push every starter's turn in the rotation back a day, Yost elected to stick with Guthrie. That means Ventura will instead skip this start and will be available in the bullpen the next couple of days before taking his regular turn Tuesday vs. the Tampa Bay Rays.
"I've had this rotation set up with Guthrie for Opening Day [at home] since Spring Training. I'm not deviating from that," Yost said. "I want a veteran to start Opening Day. With an 11-man staff, I can add another quality arm to my bullpen for the next couple of days to help us through."
Yost also noted that pushing back the rotation an entire day would put ace James Shields on a seven-day program, which would mean too much rest and create "too much havoc."
• White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham played in his first Minor League rehabilitation game for Double-A Birmingham on Thursday night. Beckham is recovering from a strained left oblique that bothered him much of Spring Training. He was placed on the disabled list March 30, with the move retroactive to March 21.
• Kansas City's first game in Detroit last season, on April 22, 2013, was also rained out. "It just seems like we go through this every year here. First trip in, we get a rainout," Yost said.
Joe Popely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.