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CHICAGO – Veteran first baseman Paul Konerko and first-year manager Robin Ventura missed being teammates on the Chicago White Sox by one year. They will get to share a home opener, after all.
Ventura's decade-long run as Chicago's third baseman ended after the 1998 season. Konerko, who's in his 14th season with the White Sox, joined the team in 1999. They will be in the same dugout at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday when the White Sox play their home opener against Detroit.
"You always have butterflies when you go out there in the home opener," Konerko said. "I still get them. If you don't, that's probably when it is time to get out."
Detroit's Matt Scherzer (0-0), who allowed seven runs on eight hits in 2 2-3 innings in his first start against the Red Sox, will face White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy (0-0). Chicago comes home with a 3-2 record after starting the season in Texas and Cleveland.
Ventura, a surprise choice to succeed Ozzie Guillen as the team's skipper because he no prior managerial experience, is typically low key in what will be his first Chicago home opener in 12 years. He wrapped up his playing career with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers and last played in 2004.
"It sounds corny, but there's a little bit of Americana when everybody comes out for the opener," Ventura said after the White Sox took both games against the Indians.
"We're sure glad to be going home. It was a long spring training, then two tough series on the road," he added. "It has been a long time since we've seen Chicago. It is always fun to go out and get your ovation. Things are always positive, where everybody is eager to get off to a good start."
The home crowd will be eager to see how Adam Dunn performs at home, too. Last season, the slugger would have had the lowest batting average in modern major league history with a few more plate appearances. He finished 2011 batting .159 with just 11 home runs and 45 RBIs in a forgettable first year with Chicago.
In the early going this season, he is batting .222 with a home run, 2 RBs and four walks. White Sox fans are hoping he is on his way back to being the player who had seven straight seasons of at least 38 homers from 2004-10.
The White Sox will be facing the team everyone expects to be chasing all season. Detroit, the defending AL Central champion, added Prince Fielder to a team that already includes AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and slugger Miguel Cabrera.
"We're getting some wins and now we head home," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who has already homered twice in the first week after hitting just eight all of last season. "There are always a couple days that get you pumped. That's the first day of spring training, the season opener and the home opener. Those are fun."
Konerko said adjusting to travel in the major leagues is something players do early in their careers. It's a must.
"Players kind of take the whole road versus home thing in stride," he said. "We play so many games that other than the opener, you really don't get caught up in where you are at all that much. It's a long season, which is why baseball is the toughest game to play, and also the most fair. It's not built up like football. You have to be ready for the grind, keep plugging away. I think this team is going to be fine in that regard. Robin has everything in focus and we're prepared."