- Doug Padilla, Chicago White Sox beat reporter
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Konerko had a key at-bat as a pinch hitter during the White Sox’s ninth-inning rally Friday night, working a one-out walk to load the bases with his team down two runs.
Konerko flipped his bat forward after the final pitch of the at-bat missed extremely high and a shade inside. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Grant Balfour stalked around the infield yelling something not only as Konerko left the batter’s box but also as Konerko was halfway up the first-base line.
At that point, Konerko finally looked Balfour’s way and seemed to have some choice words of his own.
“I know his thing is that after every pitch he kind of comes way in, he likes to get the ball, likes to stare at you,” Konerko said afterward. “That’s fine, that’s his thing, no big deal. You know that’s what he likes to do. After I walked, he’s close to me, eye contact was made and I started running down the line and I heard yelling. I don’t know what he was yelling about it.”
Konerko was hot enough about it, to actually take some steps toward Balfour, but Rays first baseman James Loney, as well as home-plate umpire Chris Segal, were between the two players.
Whether Balfour’s words were directed at Konerko -- the pitcher said afterward they were not -- he was clearly rattled as the White Sox mounted their rally. Adam Eaton followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice, Marcus Semien walked to load the bases again and Jose Abreu crushed his game-ending grand slam to right field.
By that time Konerko was already back in the dugout having been replaced by pinch runner Adrian Nieto. The White Sox veteran was obviously agitated before leaving the field, but wasn’t making a big deal of his rare on-field confrontation once the game was complete.
“I was just trying to make sure (Balfour’s yelling) wasn’t towards my direction; that’s really it,” Konerko said. “I think he was probably yelling at himself to get going or get better or whatever. When someone’s that close yelling, you want to find out why. When someone on a baseball field on the other team is yelling that close to you, you just can’t have that.”
CHICAGO -- The mood around the offensive-minded Chicago White Sox is so altered these days that even mild-mannered captain Paul Konerko is showing his fiery side.