Extra energy surrounds White Sox-Cubs rivalry

Extra energy surrounds White Sox-Cubs rivalry

MESA, Ariz. -- The 9-2 victory for the Cubs over the White Sox Saturday at Sloan Park marked the first of six official matchups between the intra-city Chicago rivals during the 2016 season.

Both teams certainly wouldn't argue for anywhere from four to seven extra head-to-head matchups sometime in late October, meaning they are meeting up in the World Series for the first time since 1906. For now, they will enjoy the buzz surrounding increased expectations for both teams entering the campaign and the extra energy produced when they play even in Cactus League competition.

"Everybody knows each one of these games between the Cubs and White Sox are intense," said White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu through interpreter and Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo. "It doesn't matter if it's Spring Training or during the season, these games mean something.

"It's good to feel this kind of atmosphere and rivalry because you're getting in the mood for the season. Again, it doesn't matter if it's Spring Training. It's always good because you feel like you have intensity that pushes you in a good way."

Abreu was part of Saturday's White Sox starting lineup against the Cubs Jason Hammel, finishing 0-for-3. In fact, manager Robin Ventura used what could be considered an everyday White Sox starting lineup with the exception of Leury Garcia in center field.

This game was played before 15,417, which is a pretty common occurrence in Mesa. A sellout also is expected on March 18, when the two teams play at Camelback Ranch.

Regular-season night games between the two are scheduled for July 25-26 at U.S. Cellular Field and July 27-28 at Wrigley Field. As far as their postseason endgame goes, beating the Royals and Indians or Cardinals and Pirates stands as a much more important task than winning the Crosstown Cup. But after a few-year lull, the Cubs-White Sox intensity seems to be returning.

"I went through the Angels and Dodgers, which I thought was a legitimate rivalry," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "For years, they were trying to make the Rays versus the Marlins a rivalry, which I thought was contrived and wasn't necessarily true.

"Obviously the Cubs and White Sox are real. When you talk to the fans in the city, people approach me -- I love when I get approached by the White Sox fans. He will give me a hard time about what happened recently but at the end of it he's very respectful, 'nice going, we're gonna get you,' all this stuff. I really think that's pretty cool. It's legit, and I'm glad that it's there."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.