If the first 10 days of the Chicago White Sox's season were about getting up to speed, then the remainder of the opening month is about overcoming major hurdles and road blocks.
A seven-game homestand begins Thursday with four games against the Cleveland Indians, a team that owned the White Sox last season. In 19 head-to-head games between the division rivals in 2013, the Indians won 17 of them.
After the Indians leave town, the White Sox play host to the World Series champion Boston Red Sox next week. That is followed by a road trip to Texas and Detroit, before the month closes with a homestand against Tampa Bay and Detroit.
The remaining April schedule is more challenging than the opening nine games, which included series against Minnesota, Kansas City and Colorado, although the Royals no longer are a pushover.
Manager Robin Ventura wasn’t about to make much of the upcoming tests.
“The start is always tough because everyone wants to get off to a good start,” Ventura said. “If it’s on the schedule, you’re going to have to play it. We’re trying to (worry about) today, and we won’t worry about the end of the month.”
The White Sox will find out quickly what their younger roster is made of. Rookies like Jose Abreu and Erik Johnson will be tested, not to mention guys with limited experience like Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton. Veteran Gordon Beckham, on the disabled list with an oblique injury, could be back during the upcoming homestand.
The White Sox will be happy to have all the help they can get. Their April opponents combined for a .532 winning percentage last year, the third toughest opening-month schedule behind the Baltimore Orioles (.547) and Los Angeles Angels (.533).
The Indians, Red Sox, Tigers and Rays all made the playoffs last year, while the Rangers and Royals had winning records. The only 2013 AL playoff team not on the White Sox’s April schedule is the Oakland Athletics, a problem that won’t present itself until the middle of May.
Despite the schedule challenges, and the young players who have to overcome them, one thing already is clear after a little more than a week of play: If they aren’t improved from their 10-15 April from last year, it would be a disappointment.