KANSAS CITY -- There'll be no special restrictions on any of the Royals' starting pitchers in the first couple of rounds of the rotation. Basically the limit will be about 100 pitches.
"The first couple starts I start really paying attention at the 90-pitch mark," manager Ned Yost said. "I don't push 'em to 125 the first time out. It'll be basically around the 100-pitch mark and then the third, fourth start they'll be ready to go 110, 115," Yost said. "There's no wrap on 'em. You have 'em ready to pitch 100 pitches on Opening Day and they're all there."
Nor does Yost plan any special treatment for his four rookies in the bullpen -- Jeremy Jeffress, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Nate Adcock.
"I don't baby any of them. We'll throw 'em in when we need 'em," Yost said. "I treat 'em like anybody else. I don't treat 'em like a rookie."
Amid KC royalty, Sweeney throws first pitch
KANSAS CITY -- There was considerable star power at the Royals' Opening Day -- George Brett, Frank White, John Mayberry and Bo Jackson among them. But it was Mike Sweeney who drew the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Under gray skies and the threat of rain, Sweeney launched the pitch to Hall of Famer Brett as the blue-clad crowd cheered loudly.
After catching the soft pitch, Brett got the traditional Sweeney hug, a staple during his 17 years in the Royals organization. Sweeney called Brett the "true Mr. Kansas City Royal."
Sweeney retired as a Royal -- signing a one-day contract on March 25 to do so -- in Surprise, Ariz., near the end of Spring Training. That day he was back in a Kansas City uniform and took batting practice.
"For me, I'm proud to say my last swing as an active player was a home run against George Brett," Sweeney said before the game, laughing. "George was throwing me BP and I can always say that in my last swing in a Major League uniform, I took a Hall of Famer deep."
Brett, White, Mayberry and Jackson were the featured figures among about 20 Royals alumni on the field before the game and the crowd was treated to videotaped highlights from their careers and the Royals' two World Series appearances.
The Opening Day festivities included a huge flag in center field for the national anthem and by a B-2 stealth bomber from Whiteman Air Force Base.
Despite the threatening weather, the game got under way at 3:12 p.m. CT, the Royals' Luke Hochevar throwing an outside ball to the Angels' Maicer Izturis. He grounded out to second baseman Chris Getz and the season was on.
Rookie arms have successful initiation
KANSAS CITY -- It was initiation day for three of the four rookies in the Royals' bullpen. Aaron Crow, Nate Adcock and Tim Collins all were brought into the season's first game on Thursday against the Angels.
Manager Ned Yost had promised he wouldn't hesitate to use the youngsters and he didn't. All three were making their Major League debuts. The fourth rookie, Jeremy Jeffress, had pitched in the Majors briefly last year for Milwaukee.
Crow relieved starter Luke Hochevar in the sixth inning and struck out Howard Kendrick for the third out. Then he worked a perfect seventh, striking out both Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.
"We had Aaron set up to face the heart of their order and he came in and did it very, very well," Yost said. "I'm very pleased with all three of the young guys."
Crow, a former University of Missouri star who comes from Wakarus, Kan., had a mob of family and friends at the game.
"When they told me I was in the game, I didn't get nearly as nervous as I thought I'd be," Crow said. "I thought I wouldn't be able to stand -- I thought my knees would be shaking out there on the mound. But it wasn't that bad."
In the eighth, Adcock threw his first pitch back to the screen but eventually recorded a scoreless eighth, retiring the first two batters before Jeff Mathis doubled. Then Adcock got help from right fielder Jeff Francoeur. When Peter Bourjos hit a broken-bat single, Francoeur rushed in and threw out Mathis, who slammed into catcher Matt Treanor at the plate.
"I was happy with it, I got two ground balls. Then I had the last guy two strikes and thought I threw a good pitch and he blooped into the outfield," Adcock said. "Thank goodness, Francoeur threw him out. It's pretty nice having a right fielder like that. And Treanor taking the hit and still getting the guy out, that's awesome."
Collins worked a scoreless ninth in the 4-2 loss, surviving a single and a walk.
"I got out of there with a zero," Collins said. "It's a shame we didn't win but it's good to get it out of the way."
Crow certainly agreed.
"We're not all going to be sitting out there wondering when we're finally going to get to pitch. Get it out of the way first, get to experience what it's like and hopefully be able to do it again tomorrow or the next day," he said.
Wide-eyed rookie relishing Majors
KANSAS CITY -- With hair of reddish hue and eyes sparkling with wonder, rookie pitcher Nate Adcock looked like he'd just won an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland. Except this was better, he'd landed in a Major League clubhouse.
"It seems like the greatest place on Earth right now," Adcock said. "You get to play baseball and you get to play in a facility like this. It doesn't get any better than that."
Adcock is the Rule 5 Draft right-hander who won a bullpen job with the Royals after never pitching above the Class A leagues.
"When you throw in A-ball and come to here ... " he said, looking around the plush, blue-hued clubhouse. "I know instead of pitching in front of 500, I'll be pitching in front of 30 or 40 thousand. That should get your heart pounding. But baseball-wise, I'll just do the same thing I've been doing. I've had success so far, so why change a thing?"
He was on the Royals' charter flight from Phoenix after the club finished as the Cactus League champions.
"The plane ride here, the way you get treated, it's just unbelievable," he said. "Why would you ever want to go back? You've got to stay, though -- like they say, you've got to stay, you've got to perform."
Adcock hails from Vine Grove, a small town in Kentucky.
"Kansas City kind of reminds me of home, it's got some hills in it," said Adcock. "The Independence area reminds me of home with a mall, the restaurants, so I'm really liking it a lot. It's pretty comforting."
His parents, John and Jackie Adcock, and sister Allie are in town for Opening Day. Brother Ace Adcock, in his first year of coaching high school baseball, couldn't make it. But his fiancée, Samantha Ward, is here.
Samantha was planning for an October 2012 wedding.
"That was when I was in the Minor Leagues, though," he said. "Now that I'm in the big leagues, I'm sure something will change."
Sure, October has to be free for the playoffs and World Series.
Collins travels first class to first Opening Day
KANSAS CITY -- Part of the fun of getting from the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues for Royals left-hander Tim Collins was the charter flight from Spring Training in Arizona.
"The whole thing with the traveling. Driving up [on the tarmac] to the plane, all the stuff you get on the plane. You get your own row -- I'm used to doubling up on a bus with the biggest guy," he said. "You get treated like a big leaguer, you really feel like you are a big league player."
That's what he was as the Royals opened the season against the Angels on Thursday afternoon.
"It's amazing, there are no other words to describe it but that," Collins said. "I don't think there's anything else like big league levels."
Francoeur, after hitting a home run and throwing out a runner at the plate, remarked: "I love Opening Day and I hate Opening Day because everything is kind of magnified." He was hating his last at-bat in the eighth inning when he struck out with the bases loaded after Angels relievers issued three walks. ... Third baseman Mike Aviles missed a high foul popup that dropped in front of him next to the third-base dugout. "The ball blew back toward the field and back toward home plate. I misjudged it, I guess," Aviles said. "It happens and the good thing was nobody scored out of it." ... Torii Hunter's 446-foot homer run to center field was a real whopper. "I don't think I've ever seen one hit longer than that in this ballpark," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. But it doesn't even make the list of the 22 in Kauffman Stadium history. The longest was by Jackson, 475 feet with a 1986 blast. Jackson was on hand Thursday, honored in pregame ceremonies. ... The Royals reported that a woman struck by a flying bat in the fifth inning behind the Angels' dugout was treated and watched the rest of the game from another seat location.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.