Opening Day FAQ: White Sox vs. Angels

March 31st, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Two clubs with postseason aspirations are set to meet in the first series of the 2021 season, as the Angels host the White Sox for a four-game set at Angel Stadium that begins on Thursday for Opening Day.

The Angels, led by veteran manager Joe Maddon, are aiming for their first playoff berth since 2014, while the White Sox are coming off a postseason appearance in ‘20 but are looking to go deeper after losing to the A’s in the Wild Card round. Chicago hired Tony La Russa as manager to help get the club over the hump, as La Russa hasn’t managed since 2011 but has won three World Series titles as skipper. La Russa also came over from the Angels, where he was working as a special assistant.

The series features plenty of stars, including Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani on the Angels and José Abreu, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito and Liam Hendriks on the White Sox. Chicago, though, will be without outfielder Eloy Jiménez, who is out several months with a ruptured tendon in his left biceps. But Ohtani is healthy and coming off a Spring Training that saw him reach 102 mph on the mound and lead the clubs in homers offensively.

It should make for a fun matchup between the two clubs, especially in the regular-season opener that’s set to feature Dylan Bundy and Giolito on Thursday.

When is the game and how can I watch it?

First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT/9:10 p.m. CT on Thursday. The game will be televised on both Bally Sports West (rebranded from FOX Sports West) and NBC Sports Chicago, along with MLB.TV, and there will be radio broadcasts on the Angels Radio Network and the Chicago White Sox Radio Network.

The starting lineups

Angels: The Angels retained most of their key position players from 2020 but moved on from shortstop Andrelton Simmons and traded for José Iglesias from the Orioles. They also acquired right fielder Dexter Fowler in a trade with the Cardinals and signed veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki to a one-year deal. Otherwise, it’s a lineup that relies on superstars such as Trout, Rendon and Ohtani with the underrated David Fletcher serving as leadoff hitter and catalyst. The club is hoping that last year’s breakout performances from first baseman Jared Walsh and catcher Max Stassi can be sustainable, while they’d love to see bounce-back showings from veterans such as Justin Upton and Albert Pujols. Pujols will likely get the nod over Walsh on Opening Day, which might be the last one for the future Hall of Famer, who is entering his 21st Major League season.

Projected lineup

White Sox: This lineup topped the American League in 2020 with 96 home runs and a .453 slugging percentage and finished second with a .779 OPS and 306 runs scored. So, this offensive attack should hold strong even with left fielder Eloy Jiménez out for five to six months. José Abreu is the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and has produced seven seasons of consistent excellence since joining the White Sox, while Yoán Moncada looks healthy and ready to return to his 2019 form when he was MVP-caliber as opposed to his ’20 campaign when he dealt with the effects of COVID-19.

Many people expected Andrew Vaughn, the team’s top prospect, per MLB Pipeline, to join the starting lineup as designated hitter, and he will see time there. But with Jiménez sidelined, Vaughn also will get some looks in left field. Keep an eye on Zack Collins, the team’s top pick in the 2016 Draft, who is playing with the most confidence of his career.

Projected lineup
1) , SS
2) , RF
3) José Abreu, 1B
4) , 3B
5) , C
6) , CF
7) , DH
8) , LF
9) , 2B

Who are the starting pitchers?

Angels: Right-hander gets the nod on Opening Day, his first such honor with the Angels, but the second time in his career, as he also started the regular-season opener for the Orioles in 2018. Bundy is coming off a strong season that saw him post a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts with 72 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings. Bundy followed that up with a solid spring and was picked to start on Opening Day over lefty , who had that privilege last year. Heaney will start the second game, while starts on Saturday and Ohtani starts the series finale on Sunday night on ESPN.

White Sox: Giolito makes his second straight Opening Day start and first career Opening Day start on the road. He becomes the first White Sox right-hander to make back-to-back Opening Day starts since Jaime Navarro in 1997-98. Giolito threw a no-hitter against the Pirates last season, finishing with a 3.48 ERA and 97 strikeout over 72 1/3 innings. He also threw six perfect innings during his debut playoff start in a win over Oakland in the AL Wild Card Series and seems primed for an even greater step forward to possible Cy Young levels.

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?

Angels: The Angels acquired closer in an offseason trade with the Reds to shore up their bullpen after leading the Majors in blown saves last year. They also signed lefty to a one-year deal to be one of the club’s top setup relievers along with right-hander . was surprisingly optioned before the season, allowing top prospect Chris Rodriguez to join the bullpen.

White Sox: The White Sox had a very good bullpen in 2020, but they might have the best bullpen in baseball entering ’21. takes over as closer, with left-hander and right-handers and working in setup roles. returns after not pitching in a big league game since September 2018 and tries to build on his short but impressive stint last season after being drafted 11th overall in 2020. Both are considered premium future starters but bring their electric stuff to relief roles. Kopech and possibly , who made a strong debut last season, could work in longer relief roles, while Crochet figures to be a late-inning option.

Any injuries of note?

Angels: The Angels were fortunate to have a healthy spring for most of their regulars except for infielder (right elbow inflammation) and relievers Félix Peña (right hamstring strain) and (hip soreness), who all opened up the season on the injured list. Barreto is expected to be out four to six weeks, which opened the door for Anaheim native and 2016 36th-round pick José Rojas to make the club. Peña and Bard suffered relatively minor injuries and could return shortly after the season begins.

White Sox: Losing was a punch to the gut for the White Sox shortly before the regular season began. Jiménez ruptured a tendon in his left biceps trying to take away a Sean Murphy home run and is projected to be out for five to six months after surgery. His middle-of-the-order power and production will be missed. is an option to replace Jiménez, but he will be out until mid-April with a right hamstring strain. Right-handed reliever also is out of action after having successful Tommy John surgery, while left-handed reliever is sidelined until May at the earliest after undergoing a microdiscectomy in January.

Who is hot and who is not:

Angels: The Angels saw some strong performances in spring from starting pitchers such as Bundy, Cobb and , while the offense was led by Ohtani, Upton, Pujols, Trout, Rendon, Stassi and Rojas. Ohtani was the club’s best hitter but Upton was right there with him.

Fowler was the lone regular in the lineup to struggle offensively but started to heat up late in camp. Mayers and Claudio scuffled a bit in relief, while Heaney posted a 6.28 ERA and Canning had a 7.11 ERA.

White Sox: Moncada reached base safely in 17 of his last 19 spring games. Moncada also hit a mammoth home run off the Brewers' Eric Yardley Friday in Maryvale, with the ball carrying out of the ballpark and onto a back practice field. Anderson finished spring on an eight-game hit streak and was 13-for-25 during that time. Collins launched three home runs, all to the opposite field for the left-handed hitter. Giolito (30 strikeouts in 23 innings), Lance Lynn (21 in 16 2/3 innings) and Carlos Rodón (16 in 13 2/3) combined to fan 67 in 53 1/3 innings.