- Doug Padilla, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On a field with a bunch of kids, some nearly half his age, old man Paul Konerko showed he can still deliver.
It might have only been the Chicago White Sox's first intrasquad game of the spring, but the soon-to-be 38-year-old Konerko kicked off his farewell year with a 2-for-2 performance, both singles to left field.
Afterward, Konerko talked about the goal of early spring, saying that the annual kickoff intrasquad game is the first chance to dial into real game-speed pitching. He added that if healthy, there is no reason he can't deliver key production in the limited chances he will get in the upcoming season.
But the team captain let his dry sense of humor fly free when talking about the new-look White Sox and a roster that has been beefed up with super-sized sluggers like Jose Abreu (6-foot-3, 255 pounds) and Avisail Garcia (6-4, 240).
"No predictions, but I feel good in a bench-clearer," Konerko said. "I don't know if we'll win (the fight), but I don't feel like we'll get it taken to us. That's about all I got on that. There are some big guys, I mean (wow). During SoxFest, Abreu and Garcia were in the (U.S. Cellular Field) weight room and I thought I walked into the Bears' offseason training facility. I said look at these guys, they're like 6-4, 240, and (Adam Dunn) is still bigger than all of them."
It's fun to laugh at the team's sheer size now, but Konerko thinks all that bulk has the potential to put opponents in a sour mood later in the season.
"It's such a tool playing every day, when you have that size and strength," Konerko said. "It's like a pitcher who throws hard. You still gotta hit your spots but you can get away with so much when you throw hard. Some of these guys are so big and strong, they are good, but when they're not, they'll still get away with it because of how big and strong they are."
Despite driving in 105 runs and hitting 31 home runs as recently as 2011, Konerko seems content with being on the downside of his career. He's has come to terms with not being able to be a 30-100 player anymore saying, "the evidence would say that."
That doesn't mean he can't do his part off the bench.
"I feel like I still could hit a good fastball and do things the same as I have always done them, but in baseball it's not just a single act of doing something, hitting the ball far over the fence, it's a matter of doing it every day," he said. "When you get older that's where the rub is. A starting player to me is 150-something games, not 130, not 120. You start 162 and every day you don't play you feel like you're giving something back to the field. That's a starting player. That is beyond me now."
Perhaps his strength in being a bench player will be that he won't long to be something that he is not.
"But that doesn't mean in the games I play, I can't have the same actions of when I did play with that mindset that I'm showing up to play 162," he said. "I hope that's how the young guys approach it."
"I sense that hungriness of these guys wanting to be really good," Konerko said. "They don't want to just hang around and just hold a job down. They want to be All-Stars. They want to make a lot of money. Those should be the goals. You do it the right way, it might not be in the forefront of those thoughts, but if you're not thinking those things I think you should be. This is where you make your hay. You have your body, you're 24, 25, 23 whatever it is, given a chance to play every day. That's the way I was thinking."