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Friday, January 25, 2013
Focused Konerko promises no distractions

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko is one cool customer, so the idea that this could be his last season on the South Side won’t be an issue.

He isn’t a robot either, though, so he remains realistic as he heads into the final season of yet another Chicago White Sox contract.

“I’m aware, but it’s not much different than it was a couple years ago when I was here,” Konerko said Friday during the first day of SoxFest. “You know there’s different scenarios that can play out. But there are so many moving parts to it all that you just can’t handicap or gauge how it’s going to go because you don’t know what’s going to happen, how I’m going to feel seven months from now, what I’m going to be thinking, what they’re going to be thinking.”

Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko is focused on this season, not what happens at its end.
After the 2005 season Konerko nearly left for the Angels, but he took $2 million less on a five-year deal and stayed with the White Sox. After 2010 Konerko’s hometown Arizona Diamondbacks were an option, yet he returned on a three-year deal.

Under those circumstances, though, the White Sox didn’t have another first-base option they were comfortable using. If Konerko leaves after this year the White Sox could move Adam Dunn to first base, or they could take a chance on moving Dayan Viciedo back to the infield.

Then again, perhaps it’s not the White Sox who will be ready to move on this time. After giving it at least a little consideration following the 2010 season, perhaps Konerko will be ready to call it quits altogether.

“I’ve been through this three times. This time and the last time is a little similar,” Konerko said. “I was prepared two years ago that this could be the last time I play. I’ve kind of gone through the whole exercise of the preparation for that, so it’s just a matter of kind of rekindling that.

“You know at some point your career is going to end. I don’t know right now. My thing is just have a solid season and do my job. That’s all it boils down to. I signed a contract to do a job and I want to make sure I do what I signed up for. That has nothing to do with the other distractions of ‘What are you going to do?’ If I spend time thinking and talking about that stuff I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing for this team.”

His consistent production levels and team-first approach are the reason he is the team captain and will always be an iconic White Sox figure. But there is also the realistic chance he might wear another uniform for a couple of seasons before riding off into the sunset.

It’s not how Konerko would prefer it to happen, but the reality exists nonetheless. If he write the script on how this works out, he would retire with the White Sox.

“That’s always the thought; that’s the best way to do it,” Konerko said. “When that is, I don’t know. Just in last couple years, I’ve seen guys like Mark (Buehrle) and A.J. (Pierzynski) have good years. I think no one will argue that their last years here they were still front-line guys with what they do, good players in this league. And both had a huge desire to stay and finish with the White Sox.

“You put those two things together, and they’re not here. So I’m not na´ve to know how things work. But it’s all good. If it doesn’t work out to where I’m back here, then that’s the way it goes. Those guys wanted that, too. You have to be ready for that. I was ready for that eight years ago, three years ago.”

Every day from now until the rest of the season will help Konerko to better understand what happens next.

“How I’m going to feel seven months from now, what I think I can’t project,” Konerko said. “There are so many moving points that factor in that decision -- kids, family, teams, body. I could not possibly factor all of those decisions now and project it out because I can’t do it.’’

“It already is weird being here without A.J. Usually by now he’s wearing you out about something. I talked to him last week and he was at Rangers Fest. Not the same ring. It will be odd not having him. But you kind of get used to the natural cycle of the game – Jermaine (Dye), then Mark. It’s how the game is.’’