What to watch: White Sox vs. Royals

What to watch: White Sox vs. Royals
April 1, 2013, 9:45 am
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First pitch: 3:10 p.m. (coverage begins on Comcast SportsNet with White Sox Pregame Live at 2 p.m. from U.S. Cellular Field)

On the mound: Chris Sale vs. James Shields

It's been a great 12 months for Sale. Since last April, he's made an All-Star team, earned a handful of Cy Young votes, posted a sub-3.00 ERA, got married, received a five-year contract, saw his alma mater (FGCU) make the Sweet 16 -- and now, he gets an Opening Day start.

[RELATED: Dates to circle for White Sox 2013 schedule]

"I called my dad the other day and say, ‘when am I going to wake up?” When’s the wake up call coming?' " Sale recalled a few weeks ago after he was named the White Sox Opening Day starter. "It’s a lot to take in, but I’m certainly appreciative of everything. I know what’s gone on doesn’t happen to a lot of people, so I’ve noticed that and taken that in. I trying to appreciate this and show that I appreciate it.”

For Kansas City, Shields was the Royals' biggest offseason acquisition in years. He gives the Royals a front-line starter for what they hope is a playoff push, something the franchise hasn't seen in a decade. Shields has historically struggled against the White Sox, holding a 4.76 ERA with 13 home runs allowed in 11 starts.

Today's lineups:

White Sox
Alejandro De Aza CF
Jeff Keppinger 3B
Alex Rios RF
Adam Dunn DH
Paul Konerko 1B
Dayan Viciedo RF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Tyler Flowers C
Gordon Beckham 2B

[MORE: AL Central Preview -- Kansas City Royals]

Alex Gordon LF
Alcides Escobar SS
Billy Butler DH
Mike Moustakas 3B
Salvador Perez C
Eric Hosmer 1B
Lorenzo Cain CF
Jeff Francoeur RF
Chris Getz 2B

Today's storyline: Konerko's final Opening Day in Chicago?

As colleague Dan Hayes eloquently wrote on Sunday, Paul Konerko's age hasn't hindered his skillset -- but the 37-year-old first baseman doesn't know if he'll continue playing after his contract expires at the end of the 2013 season. Konerko won't decide on his next step for a while, likely not until after the White Sox season concludes. But if this winds up being a farewell tour, Monday will be the start of it for the last remaining player from the 2005 World Series team.

[RELATED: Preseason MLB Power Rankings]

What else to watch for

How Tyler Flowers is received by the sellout crowd will be interesting, as Monday will mark the first Opening Day in which A.J. Pierzynski won't start for the White Sox since 2004. How Sale fares is certainly worth watching as well, as the team's ace kicks off the 2013 season.

[MORE: Steve Stone's 5 keys to the White Sox season]

Kansas City, too, deserves a longer look than perhaps they warranted in years past. The Royals have a deep bullpen and a solid lineup, one that could be made even better if Hosmer bounces back from a rough sophomore campaign.

The last word

When Chris Sale takes the mound Monday afternoon, he'll continue the White Sox recent line of southpaws earning an Opening Day nod. Only one right-hander has started Opening Day for the White Sox since the turn of the century, that being Jose Contreras in 2007. Before him, Mike Sirotka (2000), David Wells (2001), Mark Buehrle (2002-2006, 2008-2011) and John Danks (2012) earned the nod. Also of note: Konerko's been in the lineup for all but one of those starters, manning first base every year from 2001-present.