Nicky Delmonico laid out his hope for 2020 before the White Sox took the field in the season-opener Friday night.
"We've been getting our ass kicked for three years," he said. "And I think we're hungry. And I think the fans are feeling the same way, too. We want to return the damage that's been given to us. And I think that makes us dangerous."
"Return the damage" makes for a nice slogan. And now it's necessary, after a 10-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins, if these White Sox are serious about all the talk that came in the unfathomably lengthy lead-up to the 2020 campaign.
The Twins unloaded on Lucas Giolito, ambushing the ace of the South Side staff by launching his first pitch of the season out of the yard and not letting up. They finished his evening before the end of the top of the fourth inning, scoring seven runs off him in total. They weren't much kinder to the White Sox bullpen and did what they did a season ago: used a barrage of offense to put themselves atop the AL Central.
If the White Sox are going to do what they have looked capable of and compete with the Twins, as well as the Cleveland Indians, for the division crown, they'll need more moments like they had in the second inning.
Talk about returning the damage. After Giolito was hammered for five runs in two innings, the White Sox matched against Jose Berrios. Yoan Moncada's three-run homer capped a four-run second, and the game was tied, seemingly indicating that the division race was officially a go.
A remade White Sox lineup that's been touted as the strength of this young team flexed its muscles. Tim Anderson started his defense of his batting title with a pair of singles. Moncada had three hits on the night, proving himself more than ready after missing the first two weeks of "Summer Camp." Eloy Jimenez was on base three times. Luis Robert scalded a couple of balls for his first two major league hits.
But that crooked number was the last one the White Sox hung on the scoreboard, shut out the rest of the way.
And so the objective now becomes clear. For all the changes the White Sox made and all the talk of this being the start of a new era, the Twins are still pretty good. To dethrone them doesn't mean simply building a roster that looks capable of doing so. It means taking the second inning of Friday night's game and stretching it out for the next two months.
The White Sox took a punch and punched back. Then the Twins punched back, hard, and the White Sox had no counter.
One game does not alter the outlook of the season, and all the positive vibes flowing through the White Sox clubhouse since February don't deserve to be boxed up for 2021 just because the opener didn't go so hot.
There's still good reason to expect big things from these White Sox. The feeling of a Friday-night thumping won't change the feeling Delmonico had when the White Sox squared off with the Cubs last weekend.
"Normally when we step on the field with the Cubs, I've always felt outmatched," Delmonico, a veteran of the loss-heavy rebuilding years, said. "This was the first time we stepped (on the field) over at Wrigley (where) I felt like, … ‘We're going to destroy them.' I felt like we were going to beat them just with our lineup. Our lineup is so good, one through nine. … It's tough to get through our lineup twice without having any damage done.
"Just feeling the presence in the locker room, the confidence we have, the pieces that we've added, the young talent, it's a dangerous lineup and I think if we can put it all together, which we have been, it's going to be pretty special."
Yeah, things didn't look so special Friday night. But that's no reason to think the White Sox can't "return the damage." It's just that time is suddenly of the essence in this bizarre season. Players have been talking for weeks about the importance of a fast start, and the first six games of the schedule come against the Twins and Indians. There's no time to methodically build to those teams' level. The White Sox need to be at it, and fast, if they want to be in the hunt for a division title.
"I think we're not going to see too many games like tonight," Robert said. "We're going to play better. We have a better team to get a better outcome. ... Tomorrow we're going to try to do our best and win that game. And that's going to be our mindset every day."
The expanded playoff field means it might not take much from a win-loss perspective. But a team dreaming so big will strive for more than sneaking into the playoffs as a sub-.500 eighth seed, even if a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in more than a decade will be fine with a berth of any style.
But if the White Sox hope to look over and see the Twins this season, rather than staring up at them for two months, then they'll have to figure out how to keep punching back.
They have to figure out a way to "return the damage."
"After 60 games, you want to be on top. You want to be in a position to compete further beyond the regular season. That's the expectation," Rick Renteria said after Friday's game. "This is a team for us to beat. It's a great opportunity for us to take a challenge and see what we can do with it and continue to better ourselves.
"When we were kids, we all wanted to play against the best so that we could get better."
White Sox hope and now need to 'return the damage' after Twins rock opener originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago