The Kansas City Royals will open the 2012 season on the road in Los Angeles overshadowed as Albert Pujols makes his American League debut this evening at Angel Stadium.
For years we have heard how deep and talented the Kansas City Royals farm system was. In 2011 that young talent started to boil over at the major league level and now for the first time in a long time, people are excited about baseball again in Kansas City.
Eric Hosmer is one of the reasons for the renewed optimism. The young first baseman emerged last season and put himself in American League Rookie of the Year consideration, while former prospect Alex Gordon started to realize the potential that once made him the second overall pick.
Those two combined with another burgeoning start in Mike Moustakas, plus the fact that the team went 15-10 down the stretch and finished out of last place in the American League Central has people in Kansas City thinking the future is now.
Still, though, there is work to be done, as despite the strong finish the team finished 20 games below .500 at 71-91.
Kansas City did not do much of adding pieces this offseason, but did bolster its starting rotation. In addition to re-signing reliable left-hander Bruce Chen, the team went out and acquired another lefty in Jonathan Sanchez from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Sanchez gives the Royals a dependable No. 2 behind Luke Hochevar and one with a postseason track record. However, Sanchez struggled in 19 starts last season, going 4-7 with a 4.26 earned run average.
Getting the ball tonight, though, will be Chen, who will be making his first Opening Night Start. Chen once again led the Royals in wins last season, going 12-8 with a 3.77 ERA.
Chen has pitched for 10 teams in his 14-year career, but this is his fourth with Kansas City, his longest run with any club.
“People will say, ‘Bruce Chen is your No. 1 starter? You’ve got to be nuts!'” manager Ned Yost told the team’s website. “Well, the stigma of being the No. 1 starter is one game. It’s Opening Day. One game. The concept of it is big because it’s Opening Day, but it doesn’t mean anything in the real world.”
Should the Royals hold a late lead, Yost will turn to righty Jonathan Broxton. Long-time closer Joakim Soria will be lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Kansas City won seven of its 10 matchups with the Halos a year ago.