ARLINGTON, Tex. – The first month of the 2012 White Sox’ season, which begins Friday against the defending American League champion Texas Rangers, is no more important than the second, third or last. The games have equal value.
But for a team with a new, first-year manager (Robin Ventura), a new Opening Day starter (John Danks) and a new closer (tune in during the ninth inning if the Sox happen to have the lead to find out who the mystery man is), a good start is key.
It will cultivate some needed confidence in a group that failed in 2011 and stir fan interest in a group that turned on high-priced, underachieving players.
“We definitely would like to have a better start than we’ve had last few years,” said Danks, sitting in the visitors’ dugout after the Sox’ workout Thursday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. “You can dig a hole that might get too deep this early. It’s a long season and anything can happen but we don’t want to get into a hole like we have the last few years and have to work our way out of it. We want to stay up toward the top of our division all year. It starts [Friday].”
Team captain Paul Konerko, the veteran, pragmatic voice of experience, won’t read too much into the first month’s results. He’s more concerned with how the Sox go about their business, and to that end, he likes what he sees.
“We’re going to be snapped into gear right away [Friday] in this Âseries, at the level we’re going to be playing at,” Konerko said. “Tough team. But it should be a good thing for us if we use it right.”
If the Sox shaped an identity Âduring spring training, Konerko said it was about “doing it right.”
“The one thing that goes through my head more than anything is that everybody is in a mode – whatever their job is – to not even be concerned about the outcome of what’s going to happen, just doing it right,” Konerko said. “If you’re up with guys in a certain situation and you know what your job is, go about it the right way and get your job done. If you’re on defense, you have a job to do. Everybody is focused on that kind of stuff. If you do that and have the Âtalent it will come out in the results.
“Everybody is in a good place as far as that is. We’re going to be about doing it right all the time and we’ll see what that bears out at the end.”
Konerko said the Sox could play .700 ball in April and it won’t mean a thing. And if they .300 ball it won’t mean a thing because “we still have to play five more months. Nothing is written in stone about your season if you have a good or bad start.”
After the Rangers, the Sox play three games in Cleveland before opening at home against the Central Division’s heavily-favored Tigers. The month ends with four home games against the Red Sox, so finishing halfway between .300 and .700 would be acceptable.
“Even if we’re .500 at the end of April, you’re in a good position,” Brent Lillibridge said.
It begins Friday with Danks, whose beginning last season was 0-8 with a 5.25 ERA in his first 11 starts. Danks, a Texan, is 1-4, 3.81 against the team that drafted him.
“You couldn’t ask for a better stage,” Danks said. “You can pitch yourself and the White Sox on the map. People aren’t expecting much from us. We have a good series here, people might think twice about the White Sox.”