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Thome homers in Chicago debut as Sox beat Indians

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago White Sox celebrated the past. Then
newcomer Jim Thome showed them the promise of a new season.

Thome hit a two-run homer after a nearly three-hour rain delay
and the defending World Series champions beat the Cleveland Indians
10-4 Sunday night in the major league opener, a game that didn't
end until 2:10 a.m. ET.

Thome played his first 12 seasons with the Indians before
spending the last three in Philadelphia. Facing Cleveland for the
first time, he drove out a long homer in a three-run fourth inning
off reliever Fernando Cabrera and made his first curtain call at
U.S. Cellular Field.

"It was really special against the team you played for," Thome
said. "The crowd the way they showed up was great. ... I think
everyone knows my history in Cleveland, very fond memories. ... It
was neat. It brought back a lot of memories."

Cleveland, which chased Chicago for the AL Central title a year
ago only to falter in the final week, sustained an early loss when
starter C.C. Sabathia had to leave after 2 1/3 innings after he
strained an abdominal muscle while delivering a pitch. He will be
re-examined Monday.

"It was just the one pitch," Sabathia said. "I don't know
what caused it. I threw the pitch, tried to get it on Iguchi and I
just felt it grab me a little bit."

Indians manager Eric Wedge said the injury could potentially
send the big left-hander to the disabled list. "It's just a matter
of how bad it is," he said.

Brandon McCarthy, who replaced starter Mark Buehrle after the
long delay, pitched three perfect innings for the victory.

After the 2-hour, 57-minute delay, the game resumed in the
bottom of the fourth and, after Cabrera (0-1) walked the first two
hitters, the rain began to come down again.

Tadahito Iguchi's sacrifice fly gave the White Sox a 4-3 lead
and Thome delivered a long shot to right through the rain for a
three-run cushion. A.J. Pierzynski hit an RBI single and rookie
Brian Anderson a two-run single in the fifth to make it 9-3 as the
skies finally cleared.

World Series MVP Jermaine Dye, who got the first hit of the 2006
season with an infield roller, singled in another run in the sixth.

The attendance was announced at 38,802 -- a sellout -- and about a
one-fourth of the crowd stayed around for the resumption of the
game after a long wait.

But White Sox fans know how to wait -- 88 years between World
Series winners.

Chicago clinched all three of its playoff series on the road
last season. And despite a wild parade through the streets of the
city, Sunday night presented the first chance for the White Sox and
their followers to celebrate in their own ballpark.

When the final out of last October's Game 4 clincher in Houston
was replayed on the large center-field scoreboard at the end of a
video retrospective, four championship banners hanging beneath
outfield light poles were uncovered and fireworks went off.

One banner saluted the club's World Series championships in 1906
and 1917, another was for last year's winner, a third hailed the
team's AL championship and the fourth marked its division winners.
After the fireworks, another video tribute followed, accompanied by
Queen's "We Are The Champions."

"It was great. It was a great experience. I really enjoyed
it," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I've had a lot of
opening days in my life, but I think that was really special. It
was the best one I've ever been in."

The fans agreed.

"It was awesome. This is really exciting," Pat Valiska of
suburban Highland Park said. "We've waited a long time for this."

The ceremony also featured the unfurling of an American flag as
big as the outfield during the playing of "The Star-Spangled
Banner" and then a knee-knocking flyover by two jets.

And in the bottom of the third, the White Sox looked like the
team that went 11-1 in the playoffs last year, scoring three off
Sabathia.

Juan Uribe walked and Anderson hit a liner to left that went off
the top of Jason Michaels' glove for a double. Scott Podsednik hit
an RBI grounder and Iguchi followed with an RBI single.

As he delivered that pitch to Iguchi, Sabathia felt the strain.
Wedge and a trainer came out of the dugout and after Sabathia threw
a couple of warmup tosses, he was forced to leave the game.

Reliever Danny Graves walked Thome and then made a wild pickoff
throw to second, allowing the runners to advance. Paul Konerko then
hit a sacrifice fly and it was 3-0.

But the Indians tied it quickly in the top of the fourth off
Mark Buehrle on Victor Martinez's double and a towering two-run
homer by Eduardo Perez, playing his first game with the Indians.

Game notes
Thome has 431 homers, tying him for 35th place with Cal
Ripken. ...The White Sox also beat the Indians in the 2005 opener,
winning 1-0 as Buehrle and Shingo Takatsu combined on a two-hitter.
That game took just 1:51 to play.