KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Eloy Jimenez wasn’t here. Neither was Michael Kopech. Same goes for Luis Robert, Alec Hansen and Dylan Cease.
James Shields was here — suffering through a four-run first inning that seemed to be begging for a rain delay.
When Jimenez and Co. are in full major-league stride, Shields will be a footnote in White Sox history.
So will the record-tying six home runs — three by Matt Davidson — and the rare three-run single Yolmer Sanchez delivered in a funky 14-7 Opening Day victory against the Royals at a chilled Kauffman Stadium.
This was a chaotic opener that had been shaping up early as a potential preview of what 2018 could look like for a team still clearly under construction.
But the Sox rallied. And kept rallying. And it was enough to believe this season won’t necessarily be a string of L’s for a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2012.
“Tip your cap to the kids,” manager Rick Renteria said. “It’s a good start, but it’s a long season.”
This season still has the potential to be more messy than mighty. This is only Year 2 of the great rebuild that wasn’t a rebuild, then was a rebuild — and now we don’t know what to call it.
Whatever you call it, the Sox are far from being a finished product. Fans whispering about wild cards don’t get it. The players do seem to get it.
They simply don’t get caught up in such things.
“Bunch of kids having fun,” shortstop Tim Anderson said after belting two home runs that helped us almost forget his first-inning fielding gaffe and his ugly strikeout in his first at-bat.
Yes, the prospects are stacked up in the minors — and many were already in the Sox’ lineup Thursday. But before anyone tees up the “These Kids Can Play” advertising campaign, there’s work to be done.
Just when you think things couldn’t go wrong — remember the Adam Dunn signing before the 2011 season? — stuff happens. Prized pitcher Chris Sale never appeared in a postseason game for the Sox, remember.
And those 2000-era “Kids” reached the playoffs in 2000, then looked awful the next four years. It took some shrewd and risky moves adding veteran talent — Jermaine Dye, Scott Podsednik and A.J. Pierzynski — to make 2005 a reality.
That said, there seems to be something special with this group everyone is calling kids. Opening Day victories always produce smiles, but this team seems different.
“We fell behind early, and it didn’t seem to matter on anyone’s part,” Renteria said. “Special day in anyone’s book.”
Renteria noticed the vibe late last season.
“They don’t change based on their record,” Renteria said. “I hope that never happens to us. For us, it’s just the beginning.”
It’s the beginning of something new and sorely needed on the South Side.
“The chemistry, you can see it building every day,” Shields said. “These kids want it.”
The reality is the Astros will be good for a long time. So will the Yankees. With half of baseball tanking, every team is plotting for the future — or at least claiming that’s their strategy.
Whether all the pieces fall perfectly for the Sox is anyone’s guess. It won’t be this year, but that’s OK.
“We are going to have some setbacks, some disappointments,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “And we are going to have some surprises along the way.”