Opening Night takes on special meaning

Buehrle in line for fifth straight opener

For the fifth straight year, Mark Buehrle will be taking the ball for the White Sox and throwing the first pitch for a new season. But this particular opener figures to be something special.

For starters, it's being played on Sunday night at U.S. Cellular Field, a nationally televised contest on ESPN2 against the White Sox top American League Central rival from Cleveland. It also will be the first game played by the South Siders since they swept Houston late last October and captured their first World Series title in 88 years.

So, the adrenaline level has to be running a little higher for even the most veteran of players, doesn't it?

"No, it's still Opening Day," Buehrle said. "It doesn't matter if it's being played during the day or [Sunday] night. We are going to be pumped up anyways."

Buehrle topped the Indians in a Monday afternoon contest to successfully open the 2005 campaign. The left-hander shut down Cleveland on just 103 pitches over eight sterling innings, allowing two hits, walking one and striking out five. He was matched pitch-for-pitch by Jake Westbrook, but the White Sox managed to manufacture an unearned run in the eighth and claim a 1-0 victory.

The White Sox also opened the second half of the season with a 1-0 victory at Cleveland, and closed out an 11-1 playoff run with a 1-0 victory over the Astros. Maybe that season opener really was a harbinger of great things to come?

C.C. Sabathia gets the call for the Indians, starting off what they hope is a highly productive 2006 season to match their great finish of 2005. The big left-hander has a stellar 8-3 career mark against the White Sox but finished 0-1 against them last year.

There will be few noticeable differences when the White Sox take the field -- and those changes have nothing to do with the massive construction on the Dan Ryan Highway, the major roadway that runs nears U.S. Cellular. Jim Thome has replaced the combination of Frank Thomas and Carl Everett as the team's designated hitter, Javier Vazquez is now a member of the White Sox starting rotation, and utility infielders Alex Cintron and Rob Mackowiak provide depth.

Pablo Ozuna could get the call in left field and as the team's leadoff hitter, depending on the condition of Scott Podsednik's slightly strained left groin. And of course, Boone Logan will be stationed in the home bullpen. At this point in 2005, the 21-year-old was taking part in extended Spring Training, with an eye toward a third straight season at Great Falls in the Advanced Rookie Pioneer League.

It will be a special night for Logan, just as it will be special for Buehrle and his returning teammates. The significance simply stems from different reasons.

"I haven't really thought about the season opener yet," Logan said after receiving the news Monday that he made the 25-man roster. "But I will be soon."

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP C.C. Sabathia
• 15-10, 4.03 ERA in 2005
• 0-1, 4.63 ERA in 2005 vs. CWS
• 8-3, 4.24 ERA lifetime vs. CWS

CWS: LHP Mark Buehrle
• 16-8, 3.12 ERA in 2005
• 2-0, 2.45 ERA in 2005 vs. CLE
• 7-7, 4.17 ERA lifetime vs. SEA

  White Sox probable lineup
1.LFScott Podsednik
2.2BTadahito Iguchi
3.DHJim Thome
4.1BPaul Konerko
5.RFJermaine Dye
6.CA.J. Pierzynski
7.3BJoe Crede
8.SSJuan Uribe
9.CFBrian Anderson
PMark Buehrle

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• CWS: WSCR 670 AM
• CLE: WTAM 1100

On deck
• Monday: Off
• Tuesday: vs. Indians, 1:05 p.m. CT
• Wednesday: vs. Indians, 1:05 p.m. CT

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.