KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas finally get to play a home opener for the Kansas City Royals.
The two prized infielders were part of an influx of young talent that matriculated through the minor leagues last season, ultimately arriving on baseball's biggest stage and ushering in what fans in the game's backwater hope will be a new era of success.
Hosmer hit nearly .300 while flashing raw power to spare after getting called up in early May, while Moustakas came on late in the season and showcased a stingy glove at third base.
Both played their first opening day on the road last weekend, but they're even more eager to take the field at Kauffman Stadium on Friday afternoon against the struggling Cleveland Indians.
"It helps having a week under your belt and all that," Hosmer said Thursday, "but it's going to be the first home opener for me, and it's going to be a little like the debut last year."
Moustakas was expecting "a lot of fans, a lot of noise, a lot of excitement in the air."
"I've never had an opening day at home or on the road. This is my first one," Moustakas said. "I absolutely appreciate it. Any time you get to play your first home game in front of your home fans, it shows that you've been out there working hard."
The Royals won't have all their fresh young faces available.
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a strained left groin that he sustained while running into an outfield wall in Oakland earlier in the week. Catcher Salvador Perez is already recuperating from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
The injuries haven't put a damper on the spirit surrounding the Royals, though.
Part of that has to do with an encouraging road trip to start the season.
The Royals went into Los Angeles to face Albert Pujols and the mighty Angels in the official opener to the season. After getting blanked their first time out, they rallied behind some stout starting pitching to take the next two games and the series.
Kansas City dropped a 1-0 decision in the series opener against the Athletics, but rebounded behind newly acquired starter Jonathan Sanchez to take Game 2. The Royals were on the cusp of taking another series when they took a one-run lead in the top of the 12th inning of the finale Wednesday night, only for closer Jonathan Broxton to blow the game in spectacular fashion.
He plunked A's cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes to load the bases, and then drilled Jonny Gomes on his very next pitch to send home the winning run.
"He just lost command of his fastball, but he's a two-time All-Star," said Royals manager Ned Yost, dismissing any notion that Broxton would be affected by the late-game meltdown.
Yost also dismissed any notion the rest of the Royals would have a hangover.
Kansas City (3-3) had the day off Thursday, though a workout at Kauffman Stadium had to be squeezed in while rain pelted the metropolitan area. Once players cleared the field, the tarp was rolled into place over the infield - a tough way to head into the opener, if you believe in karma.
The day off allowed the Royals to reset after the way their trip came to an end.
"We had our opportunities," outfielder Alex Gordon said, "but 3-3 on the road isn't bad and I know we'll win those games down the road."
Luke Hochevar will get the assignment of the home opener for Kansas City after a dazzling first turn in the rotation. The former first-round pick allowed two runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings against the Angels, outdueling Dan Haren in a 6-3 victory.
Even though Hochevar is considered the ace of the rotation, Yost had him start the second game of the season because he wanted Hochevar on the mound for the home opener.
"It's the first time we play at home, in front of our home crowd, at our ballpark. That's a special game regardless of where it is in the season," said Hochevar, who went 1-2 with a 5.31 ERA in three starts against the Indians last season. "I don't think you can ignore it. I think you embrace it."
Cleveland will be hitting the road for the first time following a dreadful 1-4 homestand to open the season. The Indians had scored 14 runs and batted .153 in their first four games before losing 10-6 to Chicago on Wednesday.
"The homestand could have gone a little better, even when we struggled so bad offensively," manager Manny Acta said. "We put ourselves in a position to win a couple of games and things just didn't work out."
Cleveland, which went 12-6 against the Royals last season and won four of the last five matchups in Kansas City, is opening a nine-game trip.
"Five games is not going to make me panic about my bullpen, my offense, defense or anything like that," Acta said. "We have to give it a little more time."
The Indians will send their only pitcher with a win to the mound Friday, as Derek Lowe takes the ball after allowing a pair of unearned runs over seven innings to beat Toronto 4-3 on Sunday in his Cleveland debut.
The right-hander, who spent the past seven years in the NL with Los Angeles and Atlanta, beat Kansas City 6-4 on June 18, 2010, while with the Braves.
Lowe hasn't pitched in Kauffman Stadium since taking the mound for the Dodgers in a 9-6 loss June 16, 2005. He's 2-1 with a 5.72 ERA in 11 appearances - four starts - in Kansas City.
Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, off to a 3-for-18 start, is batting .565 (13 for 23) with three homers and four doubles against Hochevar. Third baseman Jack Hannahan, leading Cleveland with a .313 average, has gone 6 for 11 with two homers and three doubles when facing him.
Cleveland may have found a boost for their stagnant offense Friday, reaching agreement on a $1.25 million, one-year contract with free agent outfielder Johnny Damon.