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Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Paul Konerko looks ahead ... sort of

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko gave a nod toward the future Tuesday, as long as the conversation did not center on him personally.

Paul Konerko
It's uncertain if Paul Konerko will be back with the Sox next season, but he certainly has enjoyed watching young players make their mark.
Declining to talk about what could happen once his contract expires in a few weeks, Konerko did talk about the organization's farm system and the young players that are potential impact guys or players who have taken advantage of an opportunity.

"There's definitely guys who have made strides like Jordan [Danks] now that he's gotten to play," Konerko said. "He'd been up here a lot but never had played a whole bunch in a row. So it's nice to see him -- great guy, great hitter -- kind of hitting his stride and starting to feel comfortable because it's tough to feel comfortable when you're not in there all the time."

Another position player who has caught Konerko's eye is Marcus Semien. The two first played together at Double-A Birmingham, back when Konerko was on a rehab assignment for a lower back injury. Konerko eventually returned to the major leagues, Semien was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte and Birmingham went on to win the Southern League championship anyway.

"I should get a [championship] ring," Konerko joked.

Semien, who turned 23 on Tuesday, would be more deserving in that department. He batted .290 with a .420 on-base percentage at Birmingham. His 110 runs led the minor leagues, and he was even named Southern League MVP despite playing at Birmingham only until the end of July.

Adding his time at Charlotte, Semien finished the year with a .401 on-base percentage in the minor leagues.

"You know it's cool to see the progression of guys that you've kind of seen," Konerko said. "Myself, [Adam Dunn], John Danks, [Gordon Beckham], guys that have been here a few years, to see guys that have come to their first big league camp not even be close to being in the big leagues and then piece-by-piece over the last couple of years they've kind of turned into big leaguers. It's kind of cool."

Konerko had a front-row seat over the past two seasons watching pitcher Jose Quintana emerge from the minor leagues last season as a surprise call-up from Double-A, and then continue to establish himself as a solid big league pitcher this year.

"He reminds me a lot of Mark Buehrle in a way that just he doesn't really second guess his stuff or what the catcher calls," Buehrle said. "He just kind of throws it and has good games. When he has bad ones I don't think he puts too much into it. He just comes back for the next one and figures if he hits the glove it'll work out."

Composure is something the White Sox showed collectively Monday in a 12-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins, a rare laugher for the 59-91 team.

"Yeah, when it comes like it did last night, it just seems easy," Konerko said. "Everything is the same but all of a sudden, you find yourself in a cake walk. How come that didn't happen another 20 or 30 times throughout the year?

"I do agree, it's just a weird thing when you have a bunch of games, why that one turned out like that and the rest of them, there were a lot of them that looked just like it could have gone that way and didn't do it. We had a bunch of hits, guys driving in runs. I wish I knew the answer."