CLEVELAND — Much has been made of the White Sox’ 4-9 start last year and the emphasis on a better beginning in 2011.
Manager Ozzie Guillen gave his regulars more at-bats than usual late in spring training with the purpose of avoiding a slow start, but he tried to diffuse the importance of a fast getaway before the Sox took the field for their season opener against the Indians on Friday.
“That’s overrated to me,” Guillen said. “Last year, just because we started bad … a lot of people forget we were in first place for almost a month [before fading late]. You can start very bad and pick it up or you can start good and finish second at end.”
The Sox wasted no time getting their season off to a fast start against the Indians, exploding for 14 runs on 15 hits in the first four innings. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin each had a two-run homer in the third and two-run double in the fourth.
The Sox are picked to finish first in the AL Central by many in what figures to be a race with the Tigers and defending champion Twins. They comprise three of the top 10 payroll teams in baseball.
With the Sox payroll at $125 million, an all-time high, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf would possibly considering cutting chunks of it should the Sox start slowly.
“I don’t care what Jerry and [general manager] Kenny [Williams] say with all due respect,” Guillen said. “It doesn’t matter. To sell tickets in Chicago, you have to win. Fans buy tickets for one reason, because we have a good team.
“We have a very good team. This is a fun team to watch, I can promise that.
If you start good you take the heat away from players and play more relaxed.”
Guillen said the players expect to win and he’s right there with them.
“Every manager feels he a chance to win the World Series during spring training and the first game. We’ll see how it plays out. One thing about this ballclub, it doesn’t complain, it plays nine innings everybody is ready.
“The body language on this ballclub is a little bit better than what I’ve had in past. There was always somebody bitching and moaning about something, but with this club the only thing I see is they are pretty good kids.”
How good are they?
“I don’t know about talent but this is the most expensive ballclub. That’s all that is different.”
Guillen, who was identified by one national columnist as one of the managers on the hot seat, was asked about pressure.
“Pressure? No. Never,” Guillen said. “Me, I like the heat and the hot seat. If we’re not playing good I should be fired and if we play good keep me.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself and my coaching staff. The reason they spend a lot of money on this team is they have confidence in me. I am very comfortable where I am right now.”