10: For the 10th time in the past 11 years the Sox open the season against an AL Central opponent. The Sox begin the year with one of the easiest schedules. Only 13 of their first 40 games are against teams that were .500 or better in 2012, and with nearly half of those games at home, it’s imperative the Sox play well early, in what should be a tough division with the Tigers, Royals and Indians battling.
78: First baseman Paul Konerko is 78 home runs shy of 500 for his career, and his 26 homers last year were his fewest since 2008. But he still provides pop in the middle of the Sox lineup and his plate discipline makes him a tough out.
24: At 24 years old, lefty Chris Sale is the fifth-youngest Opening Day starter in Sox history, as he makes his first career Opening Day start. Sale expects to build off last year’s stellar debut to the rotation (17-8 record with a 3.95 ERA). The absence of John Danks, who is still working back from shoulder surgery, puts the onus on Sale to avoid a sophomore slump. An effective slider will be key to Sale’s success.
8: Adam Dunn’s eight Opening Day home runs in 11 starts tie him for the most in MLB history. Dunn’s historic turnaround – he nearly quadrupled his home run total from 2011 (11 homers) to 2012 (41 homers) – and he’ll need to replicate that production again. But Dunn, 33, is also coming off a season when he struck out a career-high 222 times, leading the league for the fourth time. For the Sox’s offense to be most effective, Dunn must boost his batting average to at least .240 with 30-plus home runs and 90 RBIs.
76: Tyler Flowers and Hector Gimenez, the Sox’s starting and backup catchers, have started only 76 total games behind the plate in six combined seasons. It’s the Sox’s most unproven position entering the season, but the front office is confident Flowers will thrive taking over for fan favorite A.J. Pierzynski, who signed with Texas during the offseason. Flowers should bolster the defense was a solid arm, and he’s been praised in how he handles the pitching staff. He won’t post a high batting average, but Flowers is patient at the plate and hits for power.
– Meghan Montemurro