And I believe he has done that. Today I saw the potential matchups for the Royals' first three games this season. The Royals open up the year on the road against the Chicago White Sox, a team that has been a consistent contender for most of the past decade. This year should be no exception.
But you know what? When it comes to starting pitchers, the Royals are just as good, if not a little better, than the Sox. And that's something we haven't been able to say for a while. Let's take a look at the probable matchups for the Royals' first three games this season, as well as who started the first three games for the Royals just one year ago:
Game 1, April 1, 2013
Royals: James Shields
White Sox: Chris Sale
Last year's Game 1 starter for Kansas City: Bruce Chen
This is a matchup of Shields, the Royals' centerpiece offseason acquisition and a perennial Cy Young contender, versus Sale, a young starter who had a great year last season but still has a lot to prove. I'll take Shields any day of the week. Chen, last year's Game 1 starter, is now the No. 5 starter for the team. That's pretty telling.
Game 2, April 3, 2013
Royals: Ervin Santana
White Sox: Jake Peavy
Last year's Game 2 starter for Kansas City: Luke Hochevar
Striking similarities between these two starters: Both Santana and Peavy were once viewed as among the best pitchers in the league and with huge upside. But both fell on hard times and a couple difficult seasons. Peavy had a better season last year, so I'll give him the edge here. But I like Santana, and I'm excited to see him pitch for the Royals this year. Last year's Game 2 starter is nothing short of a laughing stock in KC and has been relegated to bullpen duty this year. Meanwhile, the Royals appear to be doing everything they can to get rid of Hochevar through a trade (but of course, nobody else wants him).
Game 3, April 4, 2013
Royals: Jeremy Guthrie
White Sox: Gavin Floyd
Last year's Game 3 starter for Kansas City: Jonathan Freakin' Sanchez
After bouncing between the majors and the minors earlier in his career, Gavin Floyd has been a fairly reliable starter for the White Sox the last couple years. But if Guthrie can even come close to matching his success with the Royals last year - after he was traded from Colorado for Sanchez - then the Royals will have a terrific No. 3 starter. Sanchez was just plain awful for Kansas City last year and ended up on the D.L. before long for Colorado. (Ironically, Sanchez won his first game for the Royals in 2012 against the Angels. Their starter in that game? Ervin Santana.)
After those three, the Royals still have Wade Davis and Bruce Chen to follow up. Davis could be a starter on just about any team in the league. And Chen? Well, the good news is, Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy will probably be battling to replace him after they recover from Tommy John surgery come this summer.
Seven days until Opening Day!