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Carlos Rodon gets off to good, albeit short, start in White Sox’ opener

Chicago White Sox's Leury Garcia is safe at second base duirng a spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) ORG XMIT: NYOTK

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Carlos Rodon’s first Opening Day start wasn’t bad.

It just wasn’t quite long enough to suit him.

Rodon just didn’t get as far as he needed to on a day when the White Sox’ lineup was pretty much nonexistent. Rodon allowed three runs (two earned) in 5„ innings and needed 101 pitches to get that far. His slider wasn’t his best, but it was good enough to help him hold the Royals to three hits and get six strikeouts while walking one.

“It was an OK game; I just wish I could have gone six or seven for the boys, but at the end, we made a nice little run,’’ Rodon said. “We showed some fight, so that was nice to see.’’

The Sox did score three in the ninth, but going into it down 5-0 was too much to conquer even against several pitchers who had trouble throwing strikes.

Rodon watched from the clubhouse and was on his feet after a long day that included a one-hour, 45-minute rain delay at the start.

“We could have started at 12 midnight, and it wouldn’t have mattered,” Rodon said. “We were all focused and ready to play today.’’

Leury gets nod in center

If you were surprised to see Leury Garcia penciled into the Opening Day lineup, playing center field instead of Adam Engel and leading off, you shouldn’t have been, manager Rick Renteria said.

“Real simple,’’ Renteria said. “[Garcia] actually had a really nice spring; we’ve used him a lot in that slot. It’s kind of given him a feel for it, and he’s taken advantage of it.”

And if you were surprised, you weren’t the only one. In fact, Garcia was, too, even though he batted .431 in spring training.

“It surprised me; I thought it was going to be Engel,’’ Garcia said. “Ricky told me the other day, but when I actually saw my name in the lineup, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.”

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A career .244 hitter who hasn’t played more than 82 games in part because of injuries, Garcia, 28, batted .271 and .270 the last two seasons but with a combined 22 walks.

“It was the best spring of my career,” said Garcia, a switch hitter who can play all three outfield positions and three infield spots. “If I can stay healthy, I can stay in the lineup and help the team.”

Engel was a Gold Glove candidate who batted .235/.279/.336 last season. Garcia made a nice running catch in the first inning.

“Hey, man, ‘Leroy’ is so instinctive,” Sox outfielders coach Daryl Boston said. “This dude has instincts that are unmatched. He just sees the ball and goes and gets it. His routes are great, and he’s excellent at charging the ball, gets rid of it. We’re better when he’s out there.’’

This and that

General manager Rick Hahn reiterated that contract-extension talks with Jose Abreu, whose six-year deal is up after the season, would likely not occur during the season.

u The Sox’ first 11 games are daytime starts.

Thursday’s game was the earliest opener in franchise history.