KANSAS CITY -- It was gray and chilly at mid-afternoon Friday, but Kansas City greeted its home team with cheers and warmth as the players took the field against the White Sox for the season's first home game.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon uncorked the ceremonial first pitch after on-field introductions of 23 Royals alumni, including Hall of Famer George Brett and the two teams. A giant U.S. flag was unfurled across the outfield by members of the military, and at the conclusion of the national anthem, a squadron of seven small planes executed a flyover.
Overwhelmingly, fans in the full house at Kauffman Stadium were wearing blue -- many, to be sure, in heavy jackets and wool headgear. The first pitch came with the temperature at 46 degrees with 16 mph winds.
"It means a lot to everybody. I think our players were dying to get back here to our fans," manager Ned Yost said. "They're dying to get back to this stadium. It's a big deal.
"The first opener that we had in Detroit is kind of a drag, because you've got to go through all the pomp and circumstance, and it's not even your fans. Your home opener is different, because you enjoy your fans, the place is packed for you instead of against you, and there's a real excitement coming back to this place. Because the players, especially in the second half last year, felt such an energy from the fans. They're excited to get back, they're excited to get into the routine of a baseball season where you're playing every single day, and you can get on a roll and get going."
Just before the game, Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain received an award as the team's top defensive player from Wilson Sporting Goods' Bill Hartmann. Then, starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie threw the first pitch to Adam Eaton at 3:11 p.m. CT.
The players were ready to go.
"It's great to be home," said slugger Billy Butler. "This is definitely home for me."
Guthrie over Ventura boils down to experience
KANSAS CITY -- When the Royals were rained out on Thursday at Detroit, the question was raised: Why not just move probable starting pitcher Yordano Ventura, the prize rookie, over to the home opener on Friday against the White Sox instead of staying with veteran Jeremy Guthrie?
Simple answer in manager Ned Yost's thinking.
"Here's the deal: When you're rained out, your fifth starter gets bumped. In reality, Ventura's our fifth starter," Yost said. "The only reason he's not our fifth starter [in order of the rotation] is because I didn't want Bruce [Chen] back to back with [Jason] Vargas. I wanted Guthrie to start Opening Day because he's always had good success against Chicago."
Included was Guthrie's 3-1 victory over the White Sox in last year's third game at Chicago.
"This is kind of like a mirror image of last year," Yost said before Friday's game. "We started out 0-2 and Guthrie facing Chicago. He ended up pitching a great game, and actually we got on a bit of a run in April after that. When I saw the schedule, I thought that would be kind of the perfect scenario for that."
Another factor was Ventura's limited experience and Guthrie's vast experience that included four season openers in the previous six years. Ventura's total Major League exposure was three starts last September.
"He's a guy with three Major League starts under his belt, and I'm not going to start him Opening Day," Yost said.
By the way, Yost also reaffirmed that Ventura has no innings limit in his rookie season.
"There's not an innings debate. How many times do I have to say it?" Yost said.
Meantime, Yost hoped to use Ventura in a relief appearance either Friday or Saturday. If not, he'll throw a side session on Sunday to prepare for his Tuesday night start against the Tampa Bay Rays.
For those fans eager to see Ventura, there should be plenty of seats available on Tuesday night.
"They'll see him pitch quite a bit, a whole lot, but that doesn't mean I'm going to deviate from anything that we need to do," Yost said.
Infante set for full-time duty despite bone spur
KANSAS CITY -- Second baseman Omar Infante had a day off after each of his first two games for the Royals, but he's seen as an everyday player despite his recurring right elbow tenderness.
Infante had the same down time as the rest of the Royals because of a scheduled open date on Tuesday and a rainout on Thursday after two games in Detroit.
"He's going to be every day right now because we have off-days built in during April, four of them, and we're going day to day with him, but he feels great," manager Ned Yost said. "He hasn't had any issues with it, and that's good.
"This thing will flare up from time to time, but the injection that he had a couple weeks ago has done its job, it's calmed everything down. He feels good when he's swinging and throwing."
Infante has a bone spur in his right elbow. Because of that and an earlier stiff right shoulder, he played just eight games during Spring Training.
Cheers to Gordon's bat, glove in home victory
KANSAS CITY -- Up with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning on Friday, Alex Gordon came through with a three-run double to ignite the Royals' 7-5 victory over the White Sox and bring the sellout crowd to its feet.
Gordon had been in that situation in a home opener before. That came in Gordon's first game as a Royal in 2007 and it didn't turn out so well. Mark Grudzielanek, Mark Teahen and Mike Sweeney were on base with singles when Gordon came up for his very first at-bat in the Major Leagues.
That time, though, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling struck him out.
"I got the same reaction," Gordon recalled with a smile. "I struck out and they gave me a standing ovation. It's the same reaction, just different results."
At that time, Gordon was a natural crowd favorite as a ballyhooed rookie forecast to have a big career with the Royals. That's come to pass, but after a rockier road than expected.
Gordon not only demonstrated his batting prowess on Friday, but he also picked up his second assist from left field in the second inning. Alexei Ramirez tried to score on Tyler Flowers' single but was thrown out, Gordon to shortstop Alcides Escobar to catcher Salvador Perez.
"That wasn't me, that was all Esky right there," Gordon said. "That's what's so great about having Escobar. You just make a good throw and he's going to do the rest. He's been doing it for the last three years and you saw it again."
By the way, that 2007 opener turned out well for the Royals despite Gordon's strikeout. They beat Schilling and the Red Sox, 7-1.
Sweeney to participate in Hall of Fame Classic
KANSAS CITY -- Former Royals captain Mike Sweeney is headed for Cooperstown.
Sweeney, now special assistant to baseball operations, will be the Royals' representative among ex-Major Leaguers participating in the Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday, May 24, at historic Doubleday Field.
Game rosters are expected to include recently retired players from each of the 30 big league clubs. This sixth annual event will be part of the Hall of Fame's 75th anniversary celebration.
Managers and coaches of the teams will include Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Rollie Fingers, Eddie Murray, Phil Niekro and Ozzie Smith.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.