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C.C. Sabathia is as excited to pitch on opening day as he was last October, when he had a chance to send the Cleveland Indians into the World Series by beating the Boston Red Sox.

When the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner takes the mound against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, he hopes he'll be able to harness his competitive nature a little better.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Cleveland -164 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 70% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -164 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

``The excitement level of opening at home is through the roof,'' Sabathia said Sunday before a brief, brisk workout at Progressive Field. ``It means a lot to me to take the ball on opening day. It's always special. The big thing will be to keep my emotions down.''

That's something the big left-hander failed to do the last time Cleveland fans saw him five months ago at what was then called Jacobs Field. Sabathia held the Indians' ticket to the World Series in his hands - and dropped it. Starting Game 5 of the ALCS against Boston with a 3-1 series lead, the 19-game winner admittedly pressed and got beat, 7-1.

``I think I've learned,'' Sabathia said. ``All that's on my mind right now is facing Chicago.''

For Sabathia and the Indians, that's nothing new. Cleveland opened each of the past three years in Chicago, with Sabathia winning a year ago, 12-4.

``We were down by one before the National Anthem was over and took the field down by seven,'' White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. ``One thing about the Indians last year: they came to kick your behind every game.''

The Indians did a lot more slipping and sliding than kicking anything last April. A blizzard wiped out a seven-game homestand. Monday's forecast of mid-50s temperatures with a chance of rain look good by comparison.

``It's really a flip of the coin this early,'' manager Eric Wedge said of the weather. ``But we're very happy to start in front of our fans.''

Cleveland hasn't opened at home since 2001, when Sabathia was a wide-eyed 20-year-old watching his first major league game from the bench.

Guillen would prefer to see Sabathia sitting this year, too. The 27-year-old is 14-3 against the White Sox.

``I'm tired of seeing C.C., gimme somebody else,'' Guillen said.

Sabathia's fifth opening day start will be his third in a row against Chicago. He'll tie Hall of Famer Bob Lemon for third-most in Indians history behind Hall of Famers Bob Feller (7) and Stan Coveleski (6).

``He's the guy we want out there,'' Wedge said.

Wedge, voted AL manager of the year after guiding Cleveland to 96 wins, tied with Boston for the most in baseball, said the Indians realize repeating as AL Central champions will be difficult.

``There's no nights off in this division,'' Wedge said. ``I don't talk about the other teams except to say we have so much respect for the other (four) teams. That's where we put all our focus, the division.''

The White Sox, winners of the World Series in 2005, dropped to a dismal 72-90 in '07. They believe the same thing.

``The difference in this division from years past is night and day,'' first baseman Paul Konerko said. ``You can't afford to fall six or seven games back early because you may not gain it back.''

Guillen believes a good start is essential to the White Sox contending against Cleveland and Detroit, which went to the World Series two years ago.

``We were so bad last year we shouldn't be invited back in the league, but we have a chance to surprise a lot of people,'' Guillen said. ``It's not about what people think about us, it's what we believe that makes the difference.''

Notes: The Cleveland Indians placed OF Shin-Soo Choo on the 15-day disabled list and reassigned C Yamid Haad and INF Andy Gonzalez to their minor league camp. Choo is not expected to be ready until at least May after having reconstructive surgery on his elbow in September.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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