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Rebuilt White Sox blow engine in opener

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Chicago White Sox tweaked and trimmed their roster, signed and traded for new blood, added and subtracted to make the mixture right and then trudged out of Kauffman Stadium on Monday as a loser after an uninspired first act.

A 10-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals was every bit as lopsided as that score would indicate.

There were promising signs, such as the day at the plate for rookie Micah Johnson and the laser-beam home run from Jose Abreu, but this race car wasn't rebuilt in order to run errands at the grocery store.

A main centerpiece of the overhaul was Jeff Samardzija, who finally found an Opening Day he didn't like by giving up five earned runs on six hits over six-plus innings Monday. In two previous openers with the Cubs, he didn't give up a run in 15 combined innings.

There was shaky defense, an implosion from the bullpen and players left to repeat that old Opening Day mantra from the losing clubhouse: It only counts as one defeat.

"A lot of games left, so we're going to go out there and keep playing and learn from this," Samardzija said. "But like I said, K.C. is out there playing some good baseball today, so you've got to tip your hat to them and improve and get better and turn the page to the next day."

And there was this from veteran Adam LaRoche, who went 0-for-4 and struck out twice: "We were joking about that before the game, [that] this game probably will be analyzed more than any other game of the year. But that's just baseball. It happens every year. Obviously it's not the way we wanted to start it up. The key is to shake that one off and come right back out Wednesday ready to go."

Indeed, the season isn't decided on one day, and the White Sox feel very comfortable that they get to come back after Tuesday's off-day with Jose Quintana on the mound. More good news came from the Chris Sale recovery front when it was revealed Monday that the left-hander indeed will return Sunday.

But this one had none of what the new-look White Sox were supposed to offer, such as aggressive baserunning, a lineup that could feed off each other all the way down the order, and more run-scoring potential in the middle.

To top it off, manager Robin Ventura had just addressed the team's sloppy play at the end of spring training, and Monday's game looked like more of the same -- minus the cactus outside the ballpark.

"It's one day," Ventura said, pointing out a misplay up the middle by Alexei Ramirez and Johnson in the seventh inning that yielded two runs. "It was [the Royals'] day to have those fall in, and I'm hoping that happens for us on Wednesday."

Asked if this one is harder to brush off than some runaway defeat in the middle of May, center fielder Adam Eaton agreed it was, saying the analysis comes with the territory on Opening Day. But he, too, was ready to move forward after a 1-for-4 afternoon.

"Tough first one, but we'll quickly put this one behind us and still try to win the series," Eaton said. "We'll come back out on Wednesday and push forward. We'll swallow this one and learn from it for sure. There's a lot of learning there, and continue on."

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Ventura's office after the media left, as general manager Rick Hahn and special assistant to the GM Jim Thome remained for what figured to be a wrap-up of the nine-run defeat on Day 1.

Before the game, Hahn said he was fully supportive of Ventura's address to the team about the poor ending to spring training.

"We had talked about it a little bit in Charlotte and knew that was coming, and understandably," Hahn said. "We do have a fair amount of veterans here who know what they need to do to prepare for the regular season. My only concerns going through spring were health-related, as opposed to anything with performance. Robin and the coaches wanted to tighten up a few things and addressed it appropriately."

Until the White Sox start to win, they will look like a collection of random parts, as they did Monday, instead of the well-oiled machine they had hoped to resemble.

"You hope to get the kinks worked out in spring training; that doesn't always happen," LaRoche said. "I haven't been around here very long, but from what I've seen -- and even being in the National League and watching enough games -- we've got some guys that can play. So, it's not going to be sloppy baseball. You will have your games, absolutely, but once we get rolling, we'll be fine."