Hitting coach trusts Konerko to bounce back

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
4:04
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto never worries about how Paul Konerko is batting.

Even as Konerko’s average has slowly slid from .376 at the beginning of June to its current season-low of .297, Manto has remained confident Konerko will break out again any day now.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhAfter a hot start to the season, Paul Konerko has struggled in August and September.
“That’s the way it goes,” Manto said prior to Saturday’s game. “It’s just that simple. He puts the work in obviously, and he knows what’s he’s doing. He knows how to work. He puts the work in. He reads the reports, and he has a history. It will click. It just comes like that.”

Konerko has heated up in September when it matters before. In 2008, he was clutch in the season’s final week and accumulated seven RBIs in the team’s final six games to push them into the playoffs.

Konerko swung the team’s hottest bat for this season’s first two months and his average reached as high as .399 on May 27. Through June, his average dropped back to reality and was down to .336 entering July. In July, Konerko remained his steady self and hit .301 with 28 hits in 93 at-bats. He took a .323 average into August.

But since then, Konerko has been uncharacteristically inconsistent. He hit .231 in August with 18 hits in 78 at-bats, and he is currently hitting .239 with 21 hits in 88 at-bats in September. His average dropped below .300 for the first time on Wednesday. He has seven hits in 43 at-bats in his last 12 games and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since Sept. 12.


Manto thinks Konerko may be putting too much pressure on himself, especially with the offense struggling in recent weeks. Konerko has accounted for three RBIs since Sept. 15.

“The only thing, like any other hitter, I do believe maybe not swinging at strikes all the time,” Manto said. “I know they’re all trying to do their best, and I think sometimes he’s coming out of his strike zone just to try to be the guy. Once he trusts himself and swings at strikes, it’ll all happen again.

“I really do think he is who he is because of the adjustments he’s made along the way. I can suggest some things and see if it works. He’s at the point now he knows his swing better than anybody. I’ll just guide him. If he has a question or comment, I’ll give him a question or comment. I do trust he’ll get through this himself.”

Konerko said Saturday he is always fine-turning his swing whether it’s April or September.

“You use the information from the day before,” Konerko said. “You’re constantly making adjustments. I think you come in with a plan of attack each day. Some days it’s do exactly what you did yesterday, something in the game that happened yesterday, the swing you took, you might come in with an idea with something you want to work on a little bit. … You never stop adjusting until the season ends.”

The 36-year-old Konerko admitted the season has worn on him, but it’s no different this season than his past ones. It’s just the effects of playing a full season.

“The season itself is always draining no matter where you’re at,” Konerko said. “When you’re playing close games, 2-1, 3-2, for weeks on end, you lose an off-day, you’re playing every day, you don’t get any days off, it all adds up physically,” Konerko said. “We’ve been doing this since February. But every team is in the same boat, and that’s why getting to the playoffs, winning a World Series is so special when you do it.”
Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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