When you attend a game for the first time in a season, be it spring training or regular season, all the clichés come to life. The grass is impossibly green, the ball popping in the glove is louder than you remember and the crack of a bat making solid contact brings it all together, making it real. Monday at Camelback was my return to live baseball and my first up close look at the Robin Ventura lead Chicago White Sox. Over the last few weeks I’ve read about, heard folks talking about and even tried to guess for myself the sort of attitude the team would adopt in the Ventura era. Hearing is one thing and seeing another entirely. This Sox team seems much more relaxed as a whole. Not that Ozzie bred an uptight bunch but the mood and the feeling of the Southside team had a certain level of confidence that isn’t familiar over the last couple of seasons. Does the fact that the team is hitting the ball well help? Sure it does, but the players know much better than you and I that this is in fact spring training, and it’s hitting in April that really matters. Between the comfort of lessened expectations and the dwindling amount of cameras and microphones clamoring for an Ozzie Guillen soundbite, the Chicago White Sox look comfortable enough to put together a solid 2012 campaign. Bonus attitude change: It may not have translated to positive at-bats for him today, but I even spied Alex Rios interacting with children while smiling during warm-ups. It’s true, I saw it.
Today’s game took place at the Sox home away from home, Camelback Ranch. Camelback of course is home to both the Dodgers and the White Sox and this particular afternoon the Dodgers played the role of host. The White Sox trotted out essentially what is expected to be the opening day lineup save for Tyler Flowers pulling time behind the dish while the Dodgers mixed it up a little bit. It’s entirely possible that we served as witness to the lightest SS tandem in recent memory. Between Alexei Ramirez and the speedy Dee Gordon on the Dodgers, we’re looking at…about one Adam Dunn in weight. This particular battle of the skinny ends in a wash. Gordon wreaked some havoc on the basepaths, he may be the fastest player in the league right now, stealing a base in each of his visits on board. Alexei managed one of the slicker plays of spring helping to keep the Dodger bats quiet early.
John Danks pitched a solid 7 innings, waiting until the 4th to surrender his first hit. Post game we learned what we already assumed. John Danks was officially named opening day starter. He’ll kick off the season in his native Texas as the Sox take on the AL Champion Texas Rangers. Wins don’t matter in spring training, which is good as Eric Stultz attempted to mask Danks’ quality outing allowing the game winning run to cross the plate in the 9th.
Gordon Beckham built upon his pair of doubles Sunday putting the ball into play solidly a pair of times. A few more games worth of quality plate appearances from Gordo will have me convinced that he’s worked out some of that swing and miss he’s been irritating me so strongly with.
Dayan Viciedo a couple hits of his own, including a liner absolutely smoked into right center, where I love to watch him hit. Opposite field power on display is a thing of beauty.
Day one is in the books. A cold Chicago Monday was successfully avoided and I learned that once you reach a certain age, jet lag will get you, no matter how much you’d been immune in the past.