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updated: 3/31/2014 10:05 PM

Smells like Sox spirit on South Side

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  • Adam Eaton gets tangled up with Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier at second during the White Sox home opener Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.

      Adam Eaton gets tangled up with Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier at second during the White Sox home opener Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu connects during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.

       White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu connects during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Conor Gillaspie scores on a play at home during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.

       Conor Gillaspie scores on a play at home during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Fans in center field react as White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia makes a catch late in the game during the home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.

       Fans in center field react as White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia makes a catch late in the game during the home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Starting pitcher Chris Sale tips his cap after coming out in the eighth inning during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.

       Starting pitcher Chris Sale tips his cap after coming out in the eighth inning during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota Twins Monday at U.S. Cellular Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

It was only one game, so let's not present new White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with American League MVP/Rookie of the Year honors just yet.

We'll let Chris Sale make a couple dozen more starts before sizing up his Cy Young Award chances.

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We'll wait -- and wait some more -- before declaring Alejandro De Aza the odds-on favorite to win the American League home run title.

And ditto on the Sox and giving them the green light to distribute playoff tickets for the first time since 2008.

To repeat, it was only the first of a 162-game marathon that was played at wonderfully warm, wickedly windy U.S. Cellular Field on Monday afternoon.

But after wading through a odorous 2013 season that ended with the franchise's most losses (99) since 1970, White Sox manager Robin Ventura, among others, was feeling pretty darn good about a 5-3 win over the Minnesota Twins.

"It's a big deal because you look at what last year was and you can wipe that away," Ventura said. "For me, you take away you played a clean game, you get the right hit at the right time, you pitch, you've got guys taking an extra base on a ball in the dirt. Just that part of it, it's clean so you can wipe yourself away from that smell of last year."

It was a terrible smell, emanating from a combination of lousy hitting, spotty pitching, porous defense and Little League base running.

With the new season officially underway, the White Sox can finally lift their heads and dream about the future instead of keeping them buried in the sand trying to forget the past.

One of Monday's heroes -- Adam Eaton -- was with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. But the new center fielder is well aware of what happened with the Sox in 2013 and he realizes Monday's win in the opener is bigger than most.

"It's a good victory in the right direction," Eaton said after going 2-for-4 and scoring a run out of the leadoff spot. "If we would have lost today it would have been like, 'Here we go again.' But you see teams go last to first all the time and it's all about momentum and getting confidence. Today we swung the bats well against a very good pitcher."

Making his first start as the Twins' No. 1 starter, Ricky Nolasco lasted 6 innings and allowed 5 runs on 10 hits.

De Aza did the majority of the damage with a 2-run homer off Nolasco in the second inning and a solo shot in the sixth.

"I try to put the ball in play, try to do my job in any position in the batting order that I am in," De Aza said. "I want to do my job. Thank God it's happened now."

Last year, De Aza was the White Sox' leadoff man and starting center fielder. This year, he's lost both jobs to Eaton and is apparently going to platoon with Dayan Viciedo in left field while hitting lower in the order.

"That's just what we have," Ventura said. "That's a part of our roster and you have to be able to adjust and make decisions based on how you feel you're going to win that day. Do both guys want to play? Yes. Are both guys good enough to play? Yeah. But that's part of where we're at roster-wise."

Abreu is going to be the Sox' mainstay at first base and in the cleanup spot, and the 27-year-old former Cuban star dazzled in his major-league debut Monday.

In his first at-bat, Abreu doubled to right field on Nolasco's first pitch, and he added an RBI single to left in the third. Abreu also hit the ball hard in the fifth and eighth innings while flying out to center field.

"I really think we shouldn't look at the past," Abreu said through an interpreter when asked about 2013. "That is in the past.

"If anything we should look at the positive thing we gained from last year. This year is a new year and this was a good win today. I'm very happy. I thank God for being here. More importantly because we won, I was very happy to be a part of that."

En route to winning his second straight opening-day start, Sale allowed 3 runs on 5 hits in 7⅓ innings to go with 8 strikeouts.

"My slider was probably a tick off today, but my changeup was a little better than it usually is," Sale said. "(Catcher Tyler Flowers) and I worked together and got out of it alive.

"It's still Game 1. We're not going to jump the gun or anything, but obviously starting off on the right foot is always nice and we'll build momentum for the rest of the season."

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