Royals-White Sox Preview

As the Kansas City Royals added to their roster during the

offseason, Billy Butler was glad the team embraced the task at hand

instead of eyeing the future.

The Royals are in a win-now mode and believe they are poised to

make a big jump in the AL Central starting with Monday’s opener

against the Chicago White Sox.

”There’s no reason we shouldn’t be better,” Butler said

Sunday. ”How much better that is? I’m not a mind reader. I’m not a

projector. … Our talent’s higher than it’s ever been since I’ve

been here.”

After going 72-90 for their 17th losing season in 18 years, they

believe they’re ready to become a winner.

”We’re still young, we’re still growing,” manager Ned Yost

said. ”We’re going to have ups and we’re going to have downs, but

I think we’re in a much better position to be successful this year

just because of the maturity factor.”

While the Royals made some big moves, including a trade with

Tampa Bay for ace James Shields, the White Sox largely kept their

roster intact. Even so, they believe they have enough to challenge

Detroit for the AL Central title.

They led the division for 117 days last season before a 2-10

slide in late September dropped them to 85-77, three games behind

Detroit.

Chicago’s biggest offseason moves were re-signing pitcher Jake

Peavy before he could become a free agent and giving a five-year

deal to Chris Sale – the opening-night starter – after a 17-win

season. The White Sox also shuffled their front office, promoting

Rick Hahn to general manager and Ken Williams to executive vice

president, and let catcher A.J. Pierzynski sign with Texas.

As for splashy additions? They left that to the rest of the

division.

”I’ll drop the Florida Gulf Coast here,” Sale said, referring

to his alma mater’s run to the regional semifinals in the NCAA

tournament. ”Nobody expected them to win anything. They didn’t

have a big bandwagon or fan base to start with. If you believe in

yourselves, that can take you a long way. We all believe in

ourselves and in each other. We’re going to get this thing going –

and get it going right away.”

Where it’ll end is difficult to predict.

”We have a solid team,” Gordon Beckham said. ”It’s six months

away from when we’ll know if we’re going to the playoffs or not. Do

we have a chance? Yeah. But I think 30 teams have a chance.”

Kansas City appears to have improved. The Royals re-signed

Jeremy Guthrie after he dazzled in a short stint with them last

season, and they acquired Ervin Santana from the Los Angeles

Angels. The deal for Shields cost them top prospect Wil Myers.

”That’s the first time we’ve ever made a move to help out the

big league team,” Butler said. ”Usually, we’re stocking the

system. Our big league team’s gotten to the point where we needed

to make a move to help out the big league team because we have

talent and we needed to trade some prospects for major league. It

doesn’t get more exciting than that.”