Chicago White Sox: Chicago White Sox

Scout Paul Provas dies at 63

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
10:35
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Longtime Chicago White Sox scout Paul Provas passed away Thursday morning at the age of 63.

Provas was hired by the White Sox in the winter of 1992 as an amateur scout whose coverage area ranged from Kansas and Missouri, through Nebraska and Colorado and on into Wyoming. He scouted future major leaguers like Joe Crede, John Danks, Kip Wells, Boone Logan and Chris Young.

He became a full-time professional scout for the White Sox during the 2005 World Series championship season. He has been inducted into both the Texas Scouts Association Hall of Fame and the Midwest Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame, both in 2011.

Most recently, Provas recommended both reliever Maikel Cleto and infielder Leury Garcia.

Provas, a Shawnee, Kansas native, was also a scout for the Chicago Cubs from 1987-92.

Services are scheduled to take place next week in Overland Park, Kan.

Abreu starts collection of rookie honors

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
3:42
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jose AbreuMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsJose Abreu remains humble about his accomplishments as a rookie.


CHICAGO -- In a prelude to what is expected to be the result of the official American League Rookie of the Year award, the Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu was honored Monday for his outstanding debut season.

The 27-year-old Abreu was named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, a honor not related to the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award that is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Abreu earned 149 of a possible 160 votes to win the honor in balloting conducted among major league players. The Los Angeles Angels' Matt Shoemaker earned four votes, while New York Yankees teammates Dellin Betances and Masahiro Tanaka each earned three votes. The final vote went to Abreu’s White Sox teammate Marcus Semien.

“For me, it means a lot that the players who play against me recognize my efforts and my numbers,” Abreu said through an interpreter Monday via conference call. “I am thankful for all of them to give me support. I don’t have words to describe what I’m feeling right now.”

Abreu finished the season with a major league-leading .581 slugging percentage, while also posting a .383 on-base percentage in 145 games. He was second in the American League with a .964 OPS and second in total bases with 323.

Abreu’s 36 home runs not only were a White Sox rookie record, they were also third most in the AL. He was also fourth in RBIs with 107 and fourth in extra-base hits with 73.

“When spring training started, I just [wanted] to be 100 percent for the season and be able to help the team win games,” Abreu said. “When the season was finished and I had the opportunity to check my numbers, I feel very comfortable. Now, I prepare for whatever is in the future. The next award for me is OK. I’m very humble for all the accomplishments I had this year.”

Abreu was uncomfortable talking about personal accomplishments all season long, constantly saying he was more in tune with the team aspect of the game.

“All the numbers all the stuff during the season was for me, my family, the White Sox,” he said. “I don’t have words to describe how I feel about this year. I am humble for all that stuff.”

Abreu’s power did wane during the final two months of the season as he participated in a 162-game season for the first time in his career. In his native Cuba, Abreu never had more than 312 at-bats in a season for his Cienfuegos club. He had 556 at-bats for the White Sox this past season.

His performance suggests even better numbers moving forward if he can pace himself for the long schedule.

“I really am not a person that follows the numbers from the past; I don’t like to talk about it,” Abreu said. “I will prepare every year to get the numbers I got this year and make them better.”

Abreu became the first rookie in major league history to rank among the top five in his league in each Triple Crown category. He also joined Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001) to hit at least 30 doubles, 30 home runs and collect 100 RBIs in a rookie season.

The last White Sox player to win the Sporting News rookie honor was Gordon Beckham in 2009. Abreu is also the 11th White Sox player to be honored with the rookie award from the publication.

The official American League and National League Rookie of the Year awards will be announced Nov. 10.

Sox in '15: Three options at second base

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
9:30
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Micah JohnsonRon Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesMicah Johnson is in the running for the second base job next season.
The Chicago White Sox are currently carrying three guys for one position next season, although offseason roster activity could reduce that number.

With the Gordon Beckham era now complete, the White Sox are in line to have Marcus Semien, Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson battle for the Opening Day job at second base.

But depth at a position also provides a team with trade options to make other areas stronger. Semien, Sanchez or Johnson might not be enough alone to land an impact player in a trade, but they might be able to attract a bullpen piece. Or, they could be packaged with somebody else in order to make a different deal work.

Johnson figures to be the favorite for the starting job next year, and he might have been up with the White Sox in September but he was shut down with hamstring issues. The speedy Johnson stole just 22 bases in 103 total minor-league games this past season, but he did have 84 steals in the minor leagues in 2013.

Without Johnson in September, the White Sox got a close-up look at Sanchez and saw reasons for optimism. Sanchez worked well with double-play partner Alexei Ramirez, proved to be an adept fielder and, while he struggled offensively over the last two weeks, batted .308 with a .325 on-base percentage for an 11-game stretch from Aug. 29-Sept. 10.

Semien showed plenty of promise during his two stints with the White Sox, especially with a knack for clutch hitting that ran contrary to his lack of major-league experience. On defense, he was fine at second base, but his play was worrisome at third, giving pause to the idea that he could be a utility man moving forward.

Leg issues and a reduction in steals could end up watering down Johnson’s trade value this winter. But Sanchez no doubt raised his stock by looking comfortable in his 28-game big-league stint this year.

The chances that all three of these players will make it through spring training as a member of the White Sox organization seem slim.

And even if the organization views Johnson as their top second base prospect, it isn’t out of the question he could be moved if it benefited another area of the roster considerably.

The major benefit in all of this is that the White Sox figure to at least have a couple of young second base options moving into next season, and whatever they do end up with, it will be affordable.

Konerko had a hunch about these Royals

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
3:39
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- While much of the country is catching Kansas City Royals fever, retired Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko is probably the least surprised of anyone.

Konerko
When Konerko boldly claimed nine days ago that the Royals look an awful lot like the 2005 World Series champion White Sox, he probably didn't have a white-knuckle wild-card victory in mind. The Royals needed 12 innings to dispatch the Oakland Athletics 9-8 last week and advance to the division series.

Now that the Royals have swept the Los Angeles Angels in the division series, though, the 2005 connection is becoming clear again, and not just because of the composition of Kansas City's roster. The White Sox also tallied a division series sweep in 2005, blowing through the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox to do it.

Keeping the comparison going is only going to get tougher for the Royals. The White Sox not only went on to win four of five games in the 2005 American league Championship Series, they closed with four consecutive complete games from their starters.

But Konerko's comparison was more about a Royals team that was pitching well heading into the postseason, especially from its bullpen, with an offense that might not be one of the best in baseball, but knows how to deliver when it needs to.

Konerko made the connection at none other than his speech to White Sox fans during Paul Konerko Day, one day before the club's season ended. Konerko took a moment early in his speech to congratulate the Royals for earning a postseason spot.

"Good luck to you guys," Konerko said, microphone in hand while turning toward the Royals dugout. "Represent the (American League) Central. You guys remind me of a team I played for once. You guys can go do it. Represent."

Now the Royals sit eight victories from their wildest dream, while Konerko is closer to saying, "I told you so," if he ever did things like that.

Asked about recognizing the Royals in his speech, Konerko stood by what he said. He wasn't giving praise, just because the Royals were in the room.

"What I told them was true," Konerko said. "That team right there looks a lot like the team that won the World Series here as far as how they're built. Good luck to them. I hope they do it. I hope they get the same feeling I had. It was great."

Rodon gives White Sox options in 2015

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
1:10
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Unlike last year, the Chicago White Sox seem open to heading into a new season with four left-handed starters.

General manager Rick Hahn confirmed that while not the ideal scenario, the team is open to having prospect Carlos Rodon compete for a rotation spot in the spring to join a starting staff that already includes lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Rodon
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesWhite Sox general manager Rick Hahn isn't concerned that adding Carlos Rodon would give them four lefties in the rotation in 2015.
A year ago, the White Sox took a different route, breaking up a potential lefty foursome by including Hector Santiago in a three-team trade that landed leadoff man Adam Eaton. So far, that trade couldn't have worked out better for the White Sox.

The team's willingness to go the four-lefty route this time has more to do with the ability of Rodon, the No. 3 overall selection in this past summer's first-year player draft and widely regarded to be the player who would most likely reach the major leagues the fastest.

In fact, the White Sox considered adding Rodon to the major league club when rosters expanded in September. But after advancing the North Carolina State product to the Triple-A level, the White Sox felt it would be best to have the 21-year old call it a season. He turns 22 on Dec. 10.

"He's had, obviously, a busy professional season and professional debut, where we had him at numerous stops, so right now he's just resting," Hahn said. "In the not-too-distant future he's going to connect with (pitching coach) Don Cooper, and (minor-league pitching coordinator) Curt Hassler and some of our pitching coaches and come up with a specific program of what we'd like to see him work on this offseason.

"So, it was a tremendous debut for this kid. I think he's going to be an important part of what we've got going on here for the next several years."

It isn't out of the question that Rodon could return to the minor leagues or open next season in the White Sox's bullpen, but he will be pointed toward the starting rotation first, even if it means lefty overload.

"I'm more hung up on taking the five best guys that give you a chance to win on any given day," Hahn said. "Certainly, if we had four righties and one lefty, no one would say, 'You've got too many righties.' Perhaps you want a little more balance, but nobody goes out of his way to get rid of a quality righty to bring in a less or inferior option just because he throws from the left side. We're not going to do that from the left side given our situation.

"Is it ideally how you would draw it up? No. But at the same time, if Carlos is capable of filling his potential ..."

For now, the options with Rodon are wide open.

"It's conceivable he could be a member of the bullpen in 2015 at some point," Hahn said. "I do believe, much like when we had Chris Sale in a similar situation, that his long-term future is at the front end of a rotation, but we are not necessarily committed that it has to be on Day 1 as part of a rotation in order to get to that spot."

Paul Konerko enjoys rousing send-off, even without hits

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
6:14
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko has played in six All-Star Games and a World Series and was an MVP of an American League Championship Series. Yet the three games he played this weekend against the Kansas City Royals may have been the toughest of his career.

The longtime team captain went 0-for-10 in his farewell weekend, grounding out to third base in the fifth inning on Sunday in his final major league at-bat.

With a sore hand after breaking a bone earlier this month and a tight back that stiffened up on him over the weekend, Konerko also had to deal with the emotions of his final start that included a statue presentation and other gifts, an on-field speech in front of a sold-out stadium and one standing ovation after another.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

"It hasn't hit me yet," Paul Konerko said Sunday of the impact of no longer playing baseball. He said that might be different by the time spring training rolls around. "Maybe I'll find out then."

“Everything I did this weekend was something I really hadn’t done the whole year as far as back-to-back games, [hitting against] righties, the whole nine yards,” Konerko said. “It was kind of, I was beat mentally and physically. But I knew it and I tried to get ready as best I could, absorb all of it. I hung in there on Friday night, took a couple good swings, didn’t get [a hit] and then the last two days it was just kind of, I was there but I wasn’t kind of thing.”

This weekend was never about what kind of production Konerko could give. It was a celebration of all the things he had done in the past. He leaves the game with the Chicago White Sox record for total bases (4,010) and is second in franchise history with 432 home runs and 1,383 RBIs.

That he was humble and so self-aware while doing it, all while being a determined leader in the clubhouse, only heightened his appeal with White Sox fans and baseball fans, in general. Konerko did it the right way all the way to the end and only in the final weekend of his career did he let outside factors get the best of him.

“That’s such the beauty of this game, there is no switch,” Konerko said. “You gotta be good. You gotta have your act together. And it’s almost in a way for me, just a nice, gentle reminder on the way out you don’t get what you want all the time when it comes to on the field stuff. But everything else couldn’t have been [better]. This whole thing blew me away.

“I know I’ve been here awhile, and I knew there’d be something at the end that would be commemorating me being here for a while. But this whole thing, the fans and all that [celebrating Paul Konerko Day on Saturday] night, I never thought that I was one of those guys that gets that. I just didn’t think I was, but I guess I was.”

Konerko walked off the field the last time before the start of the sixth inning when he was replaced at first base by Andy Wilkins. He had one last curtain call before the sixth inning started, then watched his final game unfold from the bench. The White Sox fell 6-4 to the Royals.

“The thing is, I didn’t feel it was such a dramatic thing to stop playing baseball,” Konerko said. “And maybe it hasn’t hit me yet; maybe it won’t hit me until spring training rolls around and I’m not getting ready again, I’m not going with the team and all that. Maybe I’ll find out then.”

To show his appreciation, Konerko finished a postgame television interview and ran around the field to thank the fans, shaking hands for at least 20 minutes after the last out was made.

“You have the support as you’re going through, you know the fans are there, you know it but you don’t,” Konerko said. “What just happened out there on the field like at the end there going around, you see other people doing that. You don’t ever think that’s you. I don’t know. It’s going to take me a while to digest all of this stuff. It’s pretty crazy to me.”

Perhaps Konerko’s biggest show of thanks came early in the game, when he scratched the names of his family members in the infield dirt near first base. There was Nick and Owen for his two sons, J for his wife Jen and A for his daughter Amelia. Then he finished it off by drawing a heart.

“I thought about it probably 20 minutes before the game,” Konerko said. “I don’t know why, I just did. It was as a thank you, because your family is always in the back seat. Your mom, your dad, your wife, your kids. You do the best you can, but if you’re a big league baseball player you have to be selfish. You have to leave the house early. You’re traveling. You come home late. You just miss a lot.

“It’s not a normal thing, so it was kind of a) a thank you and b) to remind me that when this all ends today, that’s what really matters. That’s what’s waiting for me all the time on the other side, and that’s pretty good.”

White Sox set to undergo more rebuilding

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
5:42
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Headed in a positive direction now, the Chicago White Sox still finished with a losing record in 2014, and the bar is set extremely high for general manager Rick Hahn as the offseason begins.

The additions of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton last winter have the offense in better shape than it was a year ago. But those additions also are a tough act to follow for Hahn, as the fan base yearns for more improvement and a better 2015.

Is Hahn challenging himself to match and possibly exceed last year’s roster maneuvering?

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe addition of Jose Abreu was huge for the offense this season, but what do the White Sox have in store for next season?
“Absolutely, and there’s sort of, I suppose, two categories of moves: Some that are sort of more short-term fixes that are going to improve the club and slightly move the chains, and then there’s sort of the longer-term fits, such as Abreu or (Avisail Garcia) or Eaton or some of the other guys that we feel we have coming,” Hahn said.

“The addition of (left-handed pitcher) Carlos Rodon in the last draft is another example, and we’re never going to move our eye from those long-term targets being a priority. At the same time, we may be in a position where some shorter-term deals with some veteran-type players might make some sense in order to get this team closer to where we want to be.”

While making some long-term roster additions in order to get better for the long run, the White Sox also have been creating financial flexibility. Payroll was down some $30 million from last year, and with big-money players like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko all gone now, Hahn said he expects to have some freedom to spend a little more to shore up roster spots.

“The flexibility helps a lot,” Hahn said. “Having some important players signed long term, you have that cost certainty about what your obligations are going to be going forward, and we’re in a position now where we’ve managed to create some economic flexibility going into the offseason. We can deploy that via free agency or via trade and really not be precluded from any opportunities right now due to economic reasons.”

The White Sox still might not be ready to push past the $110 million mark in player salaries, but overall talent still could be younger and better than it has been the past two seasons. Just don’t expect the White Sox to spend like the deep-pocket Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

“Our intent is to convert on the No.1 target at every spot and address every need with the ideal fit,” Hahn said. “Realistically there are 29 other clubs, some of which have similar needs to ours and similar resources, whether it be from a player to trade standpoint or an economic standpoint. So, we’re realistic and know that we’re not going to be able to necessarily convert on every top guy.

“At the same time, our scouts and our analytics people are fairly well versed and skilled at being able to target, perhaps, I don’t want to say second-tier, but perhaps less notable targets who have been able to develop into integral parts of championship clubs here. So, the list is long. It continues to be vetted. It’ll continue to be vetted over the next few weeks.”

Yet for all the positives, there is no getting around the fact that the White Sox finished with just 73 victories this season, a mark that was 15 games under .500. That is not a positive no matter how many long-term impact players have been added since the July 2013 trade deadline.

“If you're asking me for a pass-fail grade on the 2014 season, it's a failure,” Hahn said. “The goal is to win a championship. The goal is always to win a championship, and we're not going to do that.”

That’s the black-and-white summary of the season. The gray area offers intrigue.

“'From the standpoint of putting ourselves in position to win multiple championships, there are some successes that we can feel happy about,” Hahn said. “Obviously, last offseason we were able to acquire the rookie of the year (Abreu). It would be nice to do that again this offseason and continue that process.

“Adam Eaton is going to be the mainstay at the top of our order for a long time. Obviously, Chris Sale took another step forward, as did Jose Quintana. Avi Garcia has shown flashes. It would have been nice if he had been healthy the whole year to continue that development, but at the same time, he continues to be a very integral part of our plan going forward.”

As for there the fixes that need to be made, a right-handed starter is a priority and a decision on a left fielder will be key. But one other area will have much of the emphasis.

“When you look at our bullpen, you wish that was better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be guys that are improving or different people. That’s just the way the game goes. You look at what you’re weak at and try to figure out a way to improve it. There are quite a few things.

“When you end up 15 games back in your division, you look back at a lot of games you lost; see how you lost them, why you lost them. I think defensively for us, there’s ways to improve. Offensively there’s ways to improve. There are a lot of different things to it. We’ll definitely go over that. We’ve been going over that as we move along and kind of start focusing on what we want to see this offseason.”

While questions have been raised this season about Ventura’s job stability, Hahn said he has no issues with his manager moving through the current roster rebuild.

“Robin continues to do an excellent job at the helm of the club,” Hahn said. “Obviously, when you evaluate managers, you have to take into account the personnel that they're given. I don't think it's fair to expect them to have every player on the roster consistently overachieve or achieve at perhaps a level beyond the player's capabilities.

“So we judge it from the prism of what was he given and what did he get out of them. His communication continues to be outstanding, his ability to keep all the players involved, and keeps them on point to prioritize the things that we feel are important and respond to inevitable challenges.”

Rapid Reaction: Royals 6, White Sox 4

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
4:47
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko's career came to a close Sunday in the Chicago White Sox's 6-4 defeat to the Kansas City Royals.

How it happened: Konerko ended his 18-year career Sunday with an 0-for-3 performance. He played 16 of those seasons in a White Sox uniform. With standing ovations in his honor all day long, Konerko struck out twice and grounded out to third base during his final at-bat in the fifth inning. Konerko took his position at first base before the sixth inning started, but he was replaced by Andy Wilkins before a pitch was thrown, getting a standing ovation as he left the field one last time.

What it means: Although Jose Abreu played the majority of games at first base, Konerko’s departure officially passes the torch to the new slugging first baseman. Abreu’s numbers this season (.317 batting average, 36 home runs, 107 RBIs) are on par with what Konerko produced in his prime. Abreu already has one All-Star Game appearance to his credit. Konerko played in the All-Star Game six times.

Outside the box:
Konerko finished his career as the White Sox’s all-time leader in total bases at 4,010. He ranks second in home runs (432), RBIs (1,383), games (2,268) and extra-base hits (846). He is third in team history in hits (2,292) and doubles (406). Konerko is the White Sox’s leader in 20-homer seasons with 12, 30-homer seasons with seven and 100-RBI seasons with six. Konerko’s 10 grand slams are tied with Robin Ventura for the club record.

Off beat:
Konerko had a touching tribute of his own to deliver as he recognized his family in the dirt. During the first inning, Konerko scratched the names of his sons Nick and Owen on the skin part of the infield near first base. As the game proceeded he added a letter “J” for his wife Jen and a letter “A” for his daughter Amelia. He finished it off with a heart. The names easily could be read from the Konerko family suite above first base.

Final record: The White Sox finished 73-89 on the 2014 season, a 10-game improvement on last year’s 63-99 mark. The White Sox had consecutive losing seasons for the first time since they finished under. 500 for three consecutive years from 1997-99.

Paul Konerko spent after emotional day

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
12:08
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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video

CHICAGO -- There was a moment early in the first game of the 2005 World Series when a Houston Astros player reached first base and remarked to Paul Konerko about the excitement of the pregame ceremonies.

At that point, Konerko has said, he knew the Chicago White Sox were better prepared mentally to win the championship.

Well, on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field, Konerko was that Astros player, who he always has declined to name, except the stakes weren’t nearly as high.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesFrom a farewell speech and his bronze being unveiled early to receiving a remarkable package of gifts and actually playing in a game, Paul Konerko had a night full of excitement at U.S. Cellular Field.
A 30-minute pregame ceremony designed to celebrate Konerko’s storied career was filled with love, emotion and appreciation, and it left Konerko drained before the contest even started. That he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts wasn’t a surprise. In typical Konerko, self-aware fashion, he apologized for his performance.

“The place felt really small,” said Konerko, who gave a nearly nine-minute speech of his own and received gifts that included the ball from his Game 2 grand slam in the 2005 World Series, while the club unveiled a statue of his likeness on the concourse.

“It felt like everybody was right on top of you. You know, for me, here, playing for the team and just everything that’s gone on since I’ve been a player here, it’s not like I needed anything. I have it right in my head and the fans, we have it in our heads. It has been good. That was kind of icing on the cake -- beyond icing on the cake. I have to apologize for the game. To go out and try to play a game after that, I mean, I’m pretty good about distractions, but no way. I was a mess out there.”

By mess, Konerko did not mean sad or teary eyed, just a bundle of emotions all at once that he had a problem containing. Excitement, pride and embarrassment were probably just a few of those feelings.

“That was probably the toughest circumstances to go play against a good team, against good pitching and still trying to win a game,” he said. “Hopefully, they will cut me some slack on that one. I apologize. It was just very odd. As many games as I’ve played, none of them ever felt like that going into it. It was awesome.”

Because Konerko also has an ability to recognize things around him, he was hyper-aware of Saturday’s opponent, the Kansas City Royals. Whether it was the ceremony or Friday night’s celebration of their first playoff berth in 29 years, the Royals were unable to match the early energy of the White Sox, who used that advantage to ride to a 5-4 victory.

“Yeah, I mean, I expected maybe a couple of [Royals] guys to maybe be out there; their whole team was out there,” Konerko said. “It was kind of an odd time. It threw things off. We’re creatures of habit. It was kind of odd that there really was no start time. It was like, whenever it’s done, we’re going to play.”

In front of Saturday’s sold-out crowd, Konerko said the Royals look very similar to the 2005 White Sox team that stormed through the playoffs. After the game, he reiterated that thought.

“In some weird way, I’ve seen those guys grow up, too,” Konerko said. “I’ve been around to see the [Eric] Hosmers and the [Mike] Moustakases and the [Alex] Gordons, and you play so many games against these guys. Of course, you’re always trying to win, but you see their careers kind of happening, too, and now you see them going to the playoffs.

“What I told them was true. That team right there looks a lot like the team that won the World Series here, as far as how they’re built. Good luck to them. I hope they do it. I hope they get the same feeling I had. It was great. But just for all of them to be out there, really cool. It was nice.”

Along with the surprise of the World Series ball, the White Sox also unveiled a bronze Konerko statue on the left field concourse. He received an oil painting of his greatest moments, a framed collection of baseballs signed by every player on the 2005 team and two guitars -- a 1976 Gibson and a 1963 Fender Stratocaster.

During the game, the White Sox played video clips of current and former teammates congratulating him on a successful career. There were clips from opponents, opposing managers and even players in other sports, such as Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and Bulls Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Metallica’s James Hetfield even offered his congratulations during the pregame ceremonies.

“I’ve done a really good job of keeping my head down and playing and not thinking I was anything while this whole career went on,” Konerko said. “Now you look up, and you have all these people going out of their way for you and all that, it’s just, I don’t know.

“I feel uncomfortable about it sometimes, but to see Derek Jeter up there or Terry Francona. I mean James Hetfield from Metallica said my name. It’s crazy. Just because you can hit a ball with a bat. It’s pretty cool. I don’t know how else to say. I’m blown away by it.”

Konerko eventually left the game in the seventh inning and walked off the field after being replaced by Andy Wilkins at first base. The fans roared and Konerko took a curtain call, then was left with just one game to play before his career ends.

“I feel less anxiety about going into [Sunday] than I did today because of the ceremony and all that and having to talk and speak and all that stuff,” Konerko said. “What am I going to do? Strikeout twice? I did that tonight. At this point, you’re just going to go out there and try to go a couple at-bats, two, three at-bats, see how it goes.

“What I want to do is go out there and hit a couple of balls hard, [and] hopefully they’ll get down. With this outfield, these guys that play for Kansas City, they seem to be everywhere, so hopefully if I hit a couple, they’ll get down. But if they don’t, that’s fine. I think we all know at this point, it’s kind of irrelevant the result, but I just want to go out there and attack for a couple more at-bats, a few more innings, and then I’ll be seeing you guys.”

Rapid Reaction: White Sox 5, Royals 4

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
10:20
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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CHICAGO -- In front of a sellout crowd that came to celebrate Paul Konerko’s career, the Chicago White Sox powered their way to a 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals in the second to last game of the season.

How it happened: Konerko went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as the man of the hour, but others got into the swing of things for him. Josh Phegley hit two home runs and Jose Abreu added another in the victory. White Sox starter John Danks was solid in his final outing of the year, giving up two runs on five hits over seven innings. The bullpen bent but didn't break as Javy Guerra recorded the save.

What it means: A 30-minute pregame ceremony for Konerko seemed to put a charge into the White Sox. And a night after clinching a spot in the playoffs as at least a wild-card team, the Royals’ division chances took a blow. The Royals remained a game behind the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central top spot with one game to play.

Outside the box: Abreu’s power has diminished considerably over the last two months, but the rookie was able to deliver a dinger Saturday. His 36th home run of the season gave him the club rookie record all to himself. He entered the game tied with Ron Kittle for most home runs by a White Sox player in his rookie season.

Offbeat: The Royals had plenty at stake Saturday with the division lead still in question, but could not have been classier with the Konerko celebration. The Royals' dugout was packed for the pregame salute, something Konerko acknowledged in his farewell speech. And when Konerko was taken off the field in the seventh inning, the Royals’ Alex Gordon stayed far away from the batter’s box, leaving the stage all to Konerko as he walked off the field, then took his curtain call.

Up next: The White Sox will send right-hander Chris Bassitt (1-1, 3.65 ERA) to the mound Sunday in the final game of the season. The Royals will counter with right-hander Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.07) in the 1:10 p.m. CT start from U.S. Cellular Field.

2005 World Series ball is one grand gift for Paul Konerko

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
9:24
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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video

CHICAGO -- The ball Paul Konerko launched into the seats for a grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series got a new home Saturday.

The souvenir's owner, Chicago White Sox fan Chris Claeys, presented the ball, which had been displayed at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse for the better part of the past nine years, to Konerko as part of Saturday’s pregame ceremony to celebrate the first baseman's career.

It was part of a package of gifts that included a bench of bases, bats and balls made by former White Sox player Ron Kittle, an original Konerko-themed oil painting and a display of baseballs signed by each of his 2005 teammates.

In addition, the music-centric Konerko received two guitars: a 1976 Gibson and a 1963 Fender Stratocaster.

On Friday, the team said a statue of Konerko was in the works. But the White Sox pulled ofF a surprise Saturday by unveiling a bronze of Konerko on the concourse, and they gave his family trophy-size replicas of the statue.

Claeys said it was a no-brainer to present the ball to the retiring team captain. The White Sox first approached him with the idea three weeks ago.

“I just totally agreed with the concept of Paul getting this ball,” Claeys said. “I think Paul is a class guy. There was no money passed. The Sox just gave me perks: a suite tonight for 20 friends and family. I said I just really want a photograph of me and Paul, and Paul to write, 'Chris, thanks for my 2005 World Series grand slam ball. PK.' Whatever. That's really all I wanted was that.”

Claeys said he was sitting in the left-field stands for Game 2 of the 2005 World Series just three days after shoulder surgery. The ball bounced off a fan, who was sitting where the now-popular blue seat is in Section 159, and rebounded right to Claeys, who was standing in the aisle.

The White Sox tried to make a deal with Claeys to get the ball before the game even ended. But when the Houston Astros tied the game, everybody in the room trying to make a deal with him scattered. He was with his friends on the field-level concourse when Scott Podsednik hit his eventual game-ending home run (also remembered with a blue seat in right-center field), and he left the ballpark with his buddies.

The ball had been his ever since, until Saturday. Claeys walked out to home plate during the Konerko ceremony, and in front of a sold-out crowd he turned over his cherished memento.

“I was nervous as heck out there,” Claeys said. “I walked up to him, I gave him the ball, and I said, ‘Paul, this has been my prized possession for nine years, and tonight it becomes yours. Thank you for 16 years of great memories.’

“He gave me a hug and said, ‘You know, I think we’re the two most nervous guys out here on the field.’ And I said, ‘I think you’re right.’”

Konerko's dad: Chicago was ideal locale

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
8:39
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – Paul Konerko was born in New England and grew up in Arizona, and his father, Hank, said that a lengthy baseball career in Chicago was the perfect fit for his son.

“He’s half Italian, half Polish,” Hank Konerko said not long before the team celebrated his son on Paul Konerko Day. “Where else would God want him to play but Chicago?”

During his nearly 9-minute speech to the crowd before Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, Konerko acknowledged a quick bond with Chicago White Sox fans. Perhaps they could feel he was one of their own.

“You know, for some reason, when I got here early in my career, I don’t know what it was, I really hadn’t done anything, but you guys treated me like I had been here, and there was some kind of a connection I felt,” Konerko told the crowd just one day before his career was set to end.

Hank Konerko said the love White Sox fans showed his son was beyond measure.

“That’s priceless,” Hank Konerko said. “For the city of Chicago – and I’m talking North Side, South Side – it was a great thing. Just to be able to put a World Series championship in this town was great. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. He did it the right way. I just couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Self-aware and hard-working, Konerko showed characteristics that helped him connect with fans. Just don’t try to compliment Hank Konerko on the way his son was raised.

“It’s his mother,” Hank Konerko said. “Let’s get her in here and embarrass her. His mom, Elena, they talk about what inspires Paul and all that, she has been the base of the triangle. She has given him the spirit, the congeniality. When they say Paul is shy, humble and all that, that’s where that comes from.”

When Konerko’s father knew his son would be a baseball player, he thought he would be proud of the on-field accomplishments. Turns out, pride comes from where you're not expecting it.

“Things that affect me the most is when someone comes up and tells me a story about what he did for their daughter or son that didn’t relate to baseball,” Hank Konerko said. “Something that he might have given somebody in a wheelchair, a bat or a ball. Those are the things that really make me proud.

“Yes, I want to see one more home run. But he has just been a good player. He did it right and how often in pro sports do you see a guy with the same organization for this long and not have any animosity to each other?”

What made Paul Konerko a success on the field, though, might have been a good old-fashioned sibling rivalry.

“His brother [Peter] is probably to this day a better athlete than Paul,” Hank Konerko said. “He played college baseball. He could run. He was your typical wiry shortstop. He hit .350 from T-Ball to college, but they were singles and doubles. One thing Paul learned early in the game and I drummed it in to him: The team with the most points at the end of the game wins the game, so change the scoreboard.

“That’s what’s important as a position player. Paul always felt as though he needed to change the scoreboard to be effective to help his team win. That’s what he concentrated on mostly. It’s true.”

Paul Konerko addresses 'friends' instead of fans in farewell speech

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
8:06
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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video

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox celebrated Paul Konerko's career Saturday night, and the captain gave a nearly nine-minute speech that touched on family, coaches and players, both present and former.

Konerko wrapped it all up by thanking the fans and referring to them as "friends."

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
Matt Marton/USA TODAY SportsPaul Konerko delivered a farewell speech Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Here is the full text of Konerko's pregame speech:

Thank you, guys. This is way more than you ever dream could happen when you pick up a bat. You’re 6 years old, and you find yourself here, 32 years later, with all this going on; it’s not something that you think is going to happen. I’m guessing it’s too late to ask for a day off, Robin, because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get out there tonight. I’ll do my best. I’ll get out there.

Before we go into what I’ve got, I just want to say congratulations to these guys over here. They should be very proud. They ended a long streak to get into the playoffs. This whole thing is keeping them from getting this game going, and I appreciate them being out here, No. 1, and having to change up their schedule. Good luck to you guys. Represent the Central. You guys remind me of a team I played for once. You guys can go do it. Represent. Thank you.

Let me start off thanking a few people here. My family -- we have a bunch of them all over the place in the stadium. My mom and dad. There you go. My wife, three kids: Nick, Owen, Emilia. My brother, Pete. Tom and Holly Wells, my wife’s parents. And all their kids. You want to talk about real heroes. Right there.

All these guys that came in back here that I used to play with and were kind enough to take time out of their day to join us here tonight. There were more who couldn’t get here because of what happened, which is a shame. Believe me, they’re here in spirit. But all the guys back here, there’s a story. I could stay here all night, and they know I could, telling stories about these guys. Cliff, you know. I really appreciate that. That’s what it’s all about right there: People coming in after you play with them for years, and they want to come out to help you out and represent for you here.

The whole Chicago White Sox front office, I mean, just everybody involved from the PR. It’s just been a crazy year with all that. But the whole time I’ve been here, they have gone above and beyond. Brooks Boyer -- with this whole year, with what’s going on tonight -- he’s gone above and beyond what I ever thought I was getting. I didn’t expect anything, but the way this went down, this will be something that, obviously, I remember forever. I’m still trying to digest it all. I don’t understand some of it sometimes, but it’s all great.

Kenny and Rick, you guys were great, you guys were fair to me. I tried to show up and play as hard as I could for you. Sometimes it was good. Sometimes it wasn’t. But the intent was there, and I did my best for you.

Jerry Reinsdorf, I could go on forever with this one here. But the best thing I can say about him is he’s old-school, and it’s still nice to know there are people out there in the world that you don’t need a contract with, you just need a handshake. That man right there is a loyal man, and I am forever indebted to him.

My teammates here. Let’s start with the coaching staff. Robin, where are you? There you are. If you are a retiring player, and you are going through your last season, you could not pick a better manager to have than Robin Ventura. First of all, this man had a great career, and he knew at every turn this year what I was feeling, what I was going through, and he took that into account. I’m telling you, it made it a lot easier to me, and I will always appreciate it. I will always owe him one for the way he dealt with me, not only this season but in the offseason leading into this year and in past years, but specifically how he handled me this year. Robin, man, I owe you some good wine for how you treated me this year, man. I love you.

The coaches, starting with Mark Parent and going on down the line, these guys were behind me every night. This role I was in this year was all new to me, so they’re probably happy they only have two more days of me asking questions, like in the third inning, “Am I going to pinch hit tonight in the eighth?” And then having to figure out all the scenarios and wear them out every night. So I appreciate them putting up with me for the year.

Herm and Brian Ball, where are you at? Stand up. I want these two guys to stand up right here. I’m taking down as many as I can with me tonight. I’m going to embarrass a lot of people. These two guys right here, I don’t know how many times they put me back together to get out here to play. It’s really unbelievable their dedication. These guys are the first ones here and the last ones to leave. There are so many nights, hundreds of nights, you couldn’t make it out on the field, and these guys get you right, get you ready to go. I owe so much to these two guys, so thank you, guys.

All my teammates here. Obviously, all my former teammates, but these guys in particular; I caught a great team to catch my last year with. I had a lot of fun with them, just very receptive to want to learn the game. These guys are hungry. Going back to these guys over here, hopefully they’re coming after them next year and getting things in line. It’s about that time again.

All right, lastly, you guys. I’m not even going to say fans -- I’m going to say friends. All my friends in this building right now. You know, for some reason, when I got here early in my career, I don’t know what it was, I really hadn’t done anything, but you guys treated me like I had been here and there was some kind of a connection I felt. I could have gone on. I was with two other teams before I got here. I could have had a good career with anybody, but there was no way that ... the relationship between myself and you guys, it just fit right. I tried to earn that as best as I could for you guys. Like I said, I could have had a good career anywhere, but it never would have happened in this city and this stadium without all of you guys.

It just fit, and it worked, and I tried to run with it as long as I could, and I really appreciate all the support. Just know that when that statue is out there, it’s easy to cheer somebody on when a guy hits a home run or drives in a run or does something good. But I don’t think of that. I think of all the bad streaks, the bad months, the bad halves, some bad years. The double plays I hit into when you guys were wondering, “How the hell is this guy that slow?” All that stuff -- there are millions of things I could come across -- that’s when you guys lifted me up and kept pushing me through to get to where I am today. So when you look at that statue out there, or you look at that number that’s going to go right there, just realize when you look at that when I’m not there and you’re at these games, your fingerprints are all over it. It wouldn’t be there without you guys, so thank you.

(Cheers.)

Alright, let’s play some baseball here. Let’s do this. Come on.

Rapid Reaction: Royals 3, White Sox 1

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
9:54
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox fell 3-1 on Friday as the Kansas City Royals wrapped up their first postseason berth since winning the 1985 World Series.

How it happened: The Royals got off to a quick start with three first-inning runs and made it stand up behind starter Jeremy Guthrie. White Sox starter Hector Noesi settled down, giving up just those three runs in six innings of work and allowing just three more hits the rest of the way. The White Sox were held to six hits. Guthrie gave up just four hits over his seven scoreless innings. Greg Holland closed it out with an 11-pitch ninth.

What it means: The victory sent the Royals to the playoffs for the first time in 29 seasons, ending the longest playoff drought in baseball. The Royals clinched a wild-card spot and moved to within a game of the Detroit Tigers' lead in the American League Central with two games to play. The Royals are also on top of the wild-card standings, a game up on the Oakland Athletics.

Outside the box: Paul Konerko, who is retiring after Sunday’s season finale, went 0-for-4 Friday while starting at first base. The veteran received standing ovations before each at-bat. He struck out in the second inning, hit a comebacker in the fourth, flied out to the edge of the warning track in the seventh and lined out to left in the ninth.

Off beat: White Sox reliever Maikel Cleto hasn’t had a season to remember, but he has been closing with a flourish. The right-hander struck out all three Royals batters he faced in the seventh inning, on 11 pitches. He has not only struck out the side in his past two outings, he now has 12 strikeouts over his past 6⅓ innings.

Up next: The White Sox will send left-hander John Danks (10-11, 4.82 ERA) to the mound Saturday in the third game of the four-game series. The Royals will counter with left-hander Danny Duffy (9-11, 2.32) in the 6:40 p.m. CT start from U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox will have an on-field ceremony to celebrate Konerko’s career at 6 p.m.

Nate Jones targets July 2015 return

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
7:03
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Making his first appearance in the Chicago White Sox clubhouse since undergoing Tommy John surgery, reliever Nate Jones said Friday he is targeting a comeback for late July of next season.

Jones has gone through a trying 2014, starting spring training with what was finally diagnosed as a back issue that required minor surgery. While on the road to recovery from that issue, he blew out his elbow.

Considering that Jones was a candidate to take over the closer's role when the season started, it should have been a devastating time for the right-hander. He refuses to see it that way, though.

"I don't wonder 'Why me?' or anything like that," Jones said. "I roll with the punches. It happens to everybody at some point or another. I've just got to deal with it, put it behind me and come back next year healthy."

Typically, players avoid putting target dates on returns that are so far in the future to avoid the appearance of a setback if it doesn't happen, but Jones was thinking positively.

"I'm going to set a date of the year mark [from the procedure]," said Jones, whose surgery was announced by the team July 30. "The average is about a year, so I'm going to try to do that. It's always good to have a goal, so I'm going to work toward that goal and see what happens."

Depending on his effectiveness, the 28-year-old could essentially be the equivalent of a late-July trade deadline acquisition when he returns. He has no doubt he will be effective, saying he is no longer having issues with his back.

"I think the percent they gave me was an 85 percent chance of coming back just as strong, if not stronger," Jones said. "That gives hope, too, along with working towards your goal of that year mark. It’s a lot of motivation."

Because he never felt sorry for himself, the hardest part of his year -- which consisted of two April appearances in which he failed to record an out -- was seeing the bullpen struggle while not being able to help.

"It was tough because, obviously, if I was healthy, I could've been out there maybe helping, or maybe contributing to the bad stuff. I don't know," he said. "I always want to be in the action. I always want to play, so it was tough to watch. But guys got it straightened out, got everything figured out and they're doing good now."

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BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.317 36 107 80
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208