(SportsNetwork.com) - The Kansas City Royals carry higher than usual expectations into their 2014 Kauffman Stadium debut Friday against the Chicago White Sox.
A couple of tough walkoff losses at Detroit this week could not sour the Royals' clubhouse, nor could Thursday's rainout. After all, this is a team that has not made the playoffs since 1985 but came awfully close with 86 wins last year.
Manager Ned Yost acknowledged the buzz surrounding the home opener.
"We do (get excited) more for our home opener than we do a road opener, I'll tell you that," Yost said. "These players are excited to get back home and play in front of our fans. With the way they supported us last year, the energy they brought, we're looking forward to getting back to Kansas City for that. It's a big day, no doubt."
Still, the Royals will need their bullpen to shape up after spoiling stellar outings by both James Shields and Jason Vargas in a pair of losses to the Tigers earlier this week.
The White Sox endured a similar fate against Minnesota on Thursday as the bullpen coughed up five runs over the last three innings in an eventual 10-9 loss. Chicago entered that game eyeing up its first 3-0 start since 1992, but the bullpen has now allowed nine runs in 10 1/3 innings pitched (8.02 ERA).
Starting for Chicago in Friday's series opener will be right-hander Erik Johnson, who was a September callup last season. After losing his first two starts, Johnson won his final three and will look to carry that momentum into his first regular-season action of 2014.
Meanwhile, Royals fans will have to wait a bit longer for their first up-close look at prized rookie hurler Yordano Ventura, who was scheduled to start Thursday's game but will now have his turn in the rotation skipped while he heads to the bullpen for a couple of days. In explaining his decision, Yost said he was emotionally invested in having righty Jeremy Guthrie start the home opener.
Guthrie had a career-high 15 wins to go along with a 4.04 ERA in 2013, his first full season in Kansas City. He has faced Paul Konerko 49 times over his career, and the White Sox captain spoke of Guthrie's expanded arsenal.
"You kind of have to wait and see when you get out there," Konerko said of Guthrie. "He's definitely crafty, and he's still got really good stuff, so he's a challenge. Their whole rotation is a challenge."
Kansas City was 10-9 against the White Sox last season and held a slim, 57-56 edge in runs scored.