Lineup for opener has its surprises

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox's season of change hasn't just stopped with an offseason roster makeover as the Opening Day lineup provided a few surprises.

Paul Konerko was not in the lineup, breaking his streak of 16 consecutive Opening Day starts (15 with the White Sox), but that news was revealed Sunday.

On Monday morning when the lineup was posted to the wall of the White Sox's clubhouse, it had rookie Marcus Semien at second base and in the No. 2 hole, while third baseman Conor Gillaspie was batting third.

Jose Abreu was in the cleanup spot, but Avisail Garcia, who was expected to be a fellow mainstay in the heart of the order, was down in the No. 6 spot with Adam Dunn batting fifth. Instead of Dayan Viciedo in left field, Alejandro De Aza was there following a hot spring, while batting seventh. Alexei Ramirez was batting in the No. 8 spot after batting .288 in 83 games as a No. 2 hitter last season.

Yet it was Gillaspie's lineup spot that seemed to be the most surprising.

"He's just a good hitter," manager Robin Ventura, when asked about Gillaspie's spot. "You start looking at his at-bats, his approach, you can insulate him with Abreu and Semien around him. You know last year we didn't have a whole lot of balance and I think this year we have some balance."

Admittedly overwhelmed by the moment at times last season, Gillaspie is now being asked to take over a prime batting lineup role on one of the most attention-getting days of the season. Before the game, he was trying to keep it all in stride.

"I'm trying not to (make a big deal about it)," Gillaspie said. "That's the spot in the lineup, your better hitters are toward the top of the lineup traditionally. It's a position I was in a little bit last year.

"I think a lot of games I was so stressed out, I honestly didn't think about it. This year I'm trying to steer clear of that a little bit more. Not psyche yourself out. I'm only 26, I'm hitting third and it is what it is. I'll try to do the best I can."

Perhaps Gillaspie can seize on some personal triumph. In the winter, the White Sox traded Addison Reed in order to land Matt Davidson, who is expected to be the third baseman of the future.

Not only did Gillaspie win the open battle at third base this spring, his stock has risen so much that he got the chance to bat third in a season opener. Davidson is starting the season at triple-A Charlotte.

"I worked awfully hard this winter," Gillaspie said. "I logged a lot of hours doing things that I felt like would help me. And truthfully, physically there are some things I needed to do different, but I think most people will tell you that mentally that's where guys can improve the most. Like I said, I don't feel like my mind is telling me a lot of this stuff is threatening like it was last year."

The White Sox's Opening Day lineup:

1. Adam Eaton, CF

2. Marcus Semien, 2B

3. Conor Gillaspie, 3B

4. Jose Abreu, 1B

5. Adam Dunn, DH

6. Avisail Garcia, RF

7. Alejandro De Aza, LF

8. Alexei Ramirez, SS

9. Tyler Flowers, C

Pitcher: Chris Sale