Opening day for White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field

The White Sox open the season at 3:10 p.m. Monday against the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field.

Robin Ventura starts his second season as manager after leading the Sox to a second-place finish behind the Detroit Tigers his rookie year. They were in first place for 117 days but fell just three games short of a playoff berth.

The Sox will try to get over that hump with minimal roster changes. The strength is still the pitching staff with Chris Sale making his first career opening day start. He finished last season 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA.

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Paul Konerko prepares for Opening Day on Monday. (Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune / April 1, 2013)

The greatest void is left by catcher AJ Pierzynski who had one of his best seasons last year. The Sox went younger and cheaper with Tyler Flowers behind the plate even though he has never been an everyday catcher in the majors.

Jeff Keppinger is an upgrade at third base since last year’s opening day starter is now in Triple-A. Back-up Conor Gillaspie has impressed this spring and provides some flexibility in the infield.

Most baseball “experts” give the Sox a chance at the wild card at best but veteran first baseman Paul Konerko pays no attention to those predictions.

“Sometimes those things are right on and sometimes they miss the mark. What’s this year going to be? Who knows, we’ll have to find out,” Konerko said during a workout at Sox Park yesterday. “You shouldn’t let other things influence your thoughts like that about how good you can be as a player or as a team.”

The Sox start a six-game home stand against the Royals and Mariners before hitting the road in Washington next week.

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