CHICAGO -- He wanted and missed the flyover on Monday but Matt Thornton said his eighth-inning appearance matched the intensity the Opening Day tradition normally brings.
The White Sox reliever entered a 1-0 game with runners on the corners, two outs and Kansas City Royals cleanup hitter Mike Moustakas at bat. After a spring in which Thornton missed time early with a sore elbow and mostly threw in the low 90-mph range, the left-hander needed only three pitches -- all 93-94 mph fastballs -- to strike out Moustakas.
Thornton admits it was nice to have back the velocity that has helped him to 466 strikeouts in 435 2/3 career innings with the White Sox.
“(Pitching coach Don Cooper) was picking on me a little bit after that, saying I was sandbagging in spring training,” Thornton said. “It was all in good fun. I’m glad it’s there. I feel like there’s more there and that’ll come as it warms up and as we get going a little bit and get that game intensity out of the way.”
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he’s glad Thornton’s back in regular form, too. Thornton -- who tied a career-high with 74 appearances last season -- was sidelined for a week in February and required an MRI because of elbow inflammation. Although Thornton has assured everyone he has been fine since, Ventura and his staff wanted visual confirmation. Ventura said his coaches have now seen evidence multiple times.
“Any time a guy goes out there and he’s not throwing that way, your antenna goes up a bit,” Ventura said. “So, it’s nice seeing the last couple of times going out in spring training in a game, he looked normal. He looked normal the other day, too. They can all say, ‘Oh, no. I feel fine.’ Unless you see it in a game, that’s when you become comfortable with it.”
Thornton admits he liked the flavor of his three-pitch strikeout of Moustakas. That made it a little more fun to start the 2013 season on a high note.
“That’s what’s fun for me, that’s what I’ve made my career doing is coming in those situations and getting out of them,” Thornton said. “That was a good start.”
Ware injury painful for Ventura
When Louisville guard Kevin Ware broke his right leg in two places on national TV on Sunday, Ventura was watching. The injury brought Ventura back to his own broken leg, one he sustained when sliding into home plate in a spring training game on March 22, 1997. Ventura said his thoughts are with Ware.
“Few people can sit and see an injury or have something happen like that,” Ventura said. “I know what's going through his head. I think the recovery's the hard part, being able to get your mind around making your way back. He's pretty young so I think that is in his favor. Again, your heart goes out to him for what he's going through.”
Williams enjoys Opening Day
Kenny Williams, the club’s executive vice president of baseball, said he enjoyed Opening Day more than he has in 12 years. This is the first season since 2000 Williams isn’t the team’s general manager. Williams said he paid particular attention to GM Rick Hahn’s face, knew what his successor felt, and is glad to not have experienced some of the same emotion.
“The intensity is still there,” Williams said. “The investment and the interest is still there. You are who you are, but because I’m not in the day-to-day trenches of things, I was able to watch it from a little bit of a different perspective.”
Sale changes approach
Prior to Monday’s opener, Chris Sale had three changeups among the 1,425 pitches he made to left-handed hitters from 2010-12. But Sale doubled that amount, throwing six of 60 changeups against the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day, according to brooksbaseball.net.