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Tuesday Morning Thoughts: A warm welcome to 2022 home opener

For the first time since 2019, the White Sox will be greeted by a full house of fans for the home opener. What does this year’s game mean for Chicago?

MLB: ALDS-Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Chicago White Sox opened their home season in front of a full crowd of fans was April 5, 2019. Their opponent — the Seattle Mariners — was the same as this year’s. However, many things were different just three years ago.

For starters, the White Sox lineup featured the following:

  • Welington Castillo behind the plate (and hitting cleanup!)
  • Yonder Alonso at designated hitter
  • Jose Rondón at second base
  • Leury García in right field

OK, so maybe not everything is different. The holes in right field and second base remain the same, and García continues to worm himself into the lineup. Besides that ...

  • The White Sox were in their 11th — and final — year of a postseason drought
  • Ricky Renteria was still the White Sox manager
  • Blue-chip prospects such as Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, and Nick Madrigal had not made their major league debuts.
  • Andrew Vaughn and Garrett Crochet were still in college.

Some may remember how the 2019 opener went down: the White Sox got out to an early 6-1 lead, before Sox starter Reynaldo López slowly let the lead slip away. A Yoán Moncada single put the Sox ahead after trailing, 8-6, in the seventh inning, and Alex Colomee would eventually close out a 10-8 win.

Despite winning a thrilling home opener, expectations were a whole lot different for the White Sox in 2019. That year’s squad would finish 72-89 in a season that marked the third and final year of the White Sox rebuild.

This season’s home opener holds a far deeper meaning to the White Sox and their fans. Tuesday’s return to Guaranteed Rate Field marks the beginning of a revenge tour, a much-needed reunion between the players and fans after a rough offseason for baseball, and a return (at long last) to a full 162-game season of normalcy.

Tuesday’s matchup is a good one. The new-look Seattle Mariners roll into town, fresh off of a series win over the Minnesota Twins. The Mariners narrowly missed the postseason last year and had one of the more productive offseasons in all of baseball, signing the reigning American League Cy Young winner Robbie Ray and trading for a 2021 breakout star, All-Star outfielder Jesse Winker.

The pitching matchup is a little less intriguing. The White Sox — amidst IL stints to Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn — will be led by Vince Velasquez. Velasquez is the latest reclamation project for White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz, although Velasquez’s 2021 statistics (3-9, 6.30 ERA) and spring training stats (seven earned runs in 8 23 innings) offer little optimism for his long-term use.

The Mariners will be led by rookie Matt Brash, who is making his major-league debut. Brash, a 23-year-old flamethrower, is the sixth-ranked prospect in the Mariners farm system.

Although Tuesday’s lineup will not feature Moncada or AJ Pollock, this year’s home opening lineup will be the most loaded and star-studded in recent memory for the White Sox. Notably, Tim Anderson will be making his second start of the season after serving a two-game suspension to open the season, and Andrew Vaughn will come into Tuesday fresh off an eye-opening series in Detroit.

Tuesday’s opener likely won’t offer much insight into the White Sox season as a whole; it’s early, the Sox are dealing with notable injuries, and the front office has made it very clear that the team is not done adding. However, Tuesday’s opener will mark a return to a full, normal, COVID-less (fingers-crossed) Major League Baseball season, and the official beginning to the most highly-anticipated White Sox season in some time.

Tuesday’s game will offer hope — as April baseball always seems to — that this might actually be “the year.” Contrary to past seasons, this year may actually be the year for the White Sox.

The majority of White Sox fans can agree that the 2021 season did not end how it was supposed to. The White Sox only experienced two home postseason games: A taste of what’s to come and what’s to look forward to for the White Sox, but also a reason for vengeance.

So, cheers to another great season of White Sox baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field. Here’s to another season of light effects after clutch home runs, promotional nights, Southside (sic) jerseys and more. Here’s to another season of making Guaranteed Rate Field one of the leagues fastest-growing home field advantages.

Welcome home, White Sox. You’ve been missed.