Chicago White Sox: Paul Konerko

Jose Abreu out, Paul Konerko in vs. BoSox

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- With Jose Abreu suddenly looking a little overwhelmed 2½ weeks into the season, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura thought it would be a good day to give his rookie a breather.

Paul Konerko had been expected to get a start in Thursday’s homestand finale against the Boston Red Sox, but, instead of taking the place of Adam Dunn in the DH spot, Konerko will get to play first base for the first time this season in place of Abreu.

It will be just the second start for Konerko, who was the DH at the Kansas City Royals last week.

Abreu is mired in a 1-for-21 slump as he struggles to hit major league breaking pitches. After a hot start, during which Abreu hit four home runs, batted .300 and carried a .725 slugging percentage through 10 games, pitchers have started to expose weaknesses.

"You might be tired. You’re seeing new [pitchers], and they might be getting a report. But you go back in the cage, work on it," Ventura said. "The hardest part of all this is that baseball is relentless. It's every day of being able to gear back up and, when you’re not feeling quite right, to be able to go out and perform.

"He’s got certain pressures on him that probably other guys don’t have, so today’s a good day to just give him a day."

The White Sox open a three-game series at the Texas Rangers on Friday, and, while the pitching won’t relent, perhaps Abreu will benefit from a warmer climate.

Abreu’s batting average is down to .217, while his on-base percentage is at .324. He still has a .500 slugging percentage, tops among American League every-day first basemen.

"He has a lot going on and has been adjusting to different things," Ventura said. "This is the right time to give him a day as we go out on the road. You give him the day and a breather and let him get back at it."

Konerko is also learning to adjust as he comes off the bench now. Six of his nine at-bats came as a pinch hitter, and the only hit he has collected all season came on the first pitch he saw.

"In almost every game we've had, I've been on the verge of hitting, on the verge of getting in the game," Konerko said. "So you're prepared from about the fifth inning on. I'd say the first three or four innings feel like a normal off day, but from about the fifth inning through the rest of the game, you're paying attention to everything. Every guy that gets up in the bullpen, every pitch that's thrown, every score, you're really paying attention.

"My switch is never really off. Physically, yeah, sure, there's always something there, but you just do the work, prepare and you try to be ready. It's different, but there are people that are good at it and accomplish it, so you have to think that it's possible."

Paul Konerko to start in Thursday's finale

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Seldom-used captain Paul Konerko is set to make just his second start of the season and first at home Thursday, when the Chicago White Sox close out a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox.

Konerko, who returned for one last season at $2.5 million, made his only start this season at the Kansas City Royals on April 5. The White Sox faced left-hander Bruce Chen that day, the first time they had gone against a lefty starter.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura had two options to start Konerko in the current series with Boston and chose Thursday’s game against left-hander Jon Lester, instead of Wednesday’s game against Clay Buchholz.

Konerko hits both Red Sox lefties well. He is 7-for-15 (.467) in his career against Buchholz, with one home run and three RBIs. Against Lester, he is 10-for-25 (.400), with three home runs and seven RBIs.

Adam Dunn figures to sit Thursday while Konerko starts as the designated hitter. One possible influence on Ventura’s decision to use Dunn on Wednesday instead of Konerko is Dunn’s continuity, since the left-handed slugger hit a home run and had three walks in Tuesday’s victory over the Red Sox.

Konerko is just 1-for-8 this season with three strikeouts in his bench role. His only hit came on the first pitch he saw this season, entering as a pinch hitter on April 2.

After getting at least 460 at-bats in nine of the past 10 seasons, there figured to be a considerable adjustment period to sporadic at-bats.

“I think he’s done all right; it is an adjustment,” Ventura said. “He’s kind of playing along with the game, trying to figure out when it’s going to be the spot when you’re going to ask him to go in.

“He knows the situations he’ll be in there and he was prepared for them and he was ready for that at-bat [Tuesday night] before the [game-ending] error happened.”

A.J. plays numbers game with 'Hawk'

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – A.J. Pierzynski is now two years removed from his Chicago White Sox days, but the ties remain strong.

Asked Tuesday how he decided on wearing No. 40 this season, his first with the Boston Red Sox, his response was pure Pierzynski.

[+] EnlargeA. J. Pierzynski
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesA. J. Pierzynski's No. 12 was taken, so he took inspiration from friend and White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson.
“What happened was when I came over to the Red Sox, they asked me what jersey number I wanted,” Pierzynski said before the game against the White Sox. “Obviously I was 12 for a long time and I couldn’t have 12 because [Mike] Napoli had 12. If he wouldn’t have [re-signed], I would have taken that. But I was kind of half-joking with [Paul] Konerko, [White Sox director of media relations Bob] Beghtol and a couple of other guys over here, they were like, ‘You can do what your dad did and be his number.’”

Pierzynski’s “dad” in this case would be White Sox broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson. The men are not related, of course, but they have longtime ties, and Harrelson has made no secret of his affinity for the way Pierzynski plays.

“I thought, ‘You know that’s not a bad idea,’” Pierzynski said. “So I text Hawk and asked him what number he was and he said 40. So I just went with it.”

Of course Pierzynski won’t be wearing No. 40 on Tuesday night. All players will wear No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day.

With his former No. 12 on his back, Pierzynski played with the White Sox for eight seasons and is well-versed in the organization, but he clearly doesn’t recognize what he sees now. For one, his former team has been an offensive machine in the early going of 2014. For another, the Sox are circling the bases with ease and doing it without much input from Konerko, who is a part-time player in his farewell season.

“It’s strange for me to see Paul not play every day,” Pierzynski said. “That’s the Paul I know and the Paul I played with and that’s the Paul I think most people remember, but to look up and not see him in the lineup, look at the lineup today and no Konerko, it’s still odd to me. You look it up and he has like eight at-bats for the whole season. To see that is just weird for me.”

Pierzynski said Konerko kept him in the loop when the White Sox captain was making his decision whether to return for one more year or retire.

“I told him absolutely he should come back,” Pierzynski said. “He deserves to come back, not only for himself but to enjoy one year. If they aren’t going to give him the opportunity to play, then heck, he can enjoy it a little bit more. It’s a lot more relaxing if he knows he’s not playing every day.

“He doesn’t have to worry about how to get a hit off of guys. He can enjoy the atmosphere. I know he’s a good pinch hitter. He’s always had success in that role. I’m sure they are using him effectively. I know Paul wanted to go out on his terms and, after this year, he’ll be able to do that.”

Never one to just let a compliment stand, Pierzynski is impressed with the White Sox's turnaround but cautioned those who think it’s just going to be this way all season.

“Guys last year weren’t going to have as bad of the year that they did,” Pierzynski said. “Alexei Ramirez is a better player than he was last year. A lot of these guys are going to do better and they also have some younger guys with energy. But let’s not forget we’re only 13 games into the year. I know you’re printing your playoff tickets already, but there’s a long way to go here.”

He had to admit, though, that the team’s turnaround on offense has been dramatic.

“No, they’re playing great,” he said. “Look, we watched video on them and we’re going to have our scouting meeting here in a minute. I know they are swinging the bat well, they are scoring a bunch of runs and they have some energy. I know last year playing against these guys, there wasn’t a lot of energy but they have turned it around and have been off to a good start.”

Series preview: Red Sox at White Sox

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Jake PeavyAP Photo/Elise AmendolaJake Peavy has a 2.13 ERA in two starts this season with the Red Sox.
CHICAGO -- The early-season tests only get harder for the Chicago White Sox as the World Series champion Boston Red Sox roll into U.S. Cellular Field on Tuesday for a three-game series.

Along with the opportunity to measure themselves against last year's best, this series also represents the return of Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski.

The sometimes contentious battery mates on the South Side came to Boston from different routes. Peavy was traded to Boston on July 30 of last year as the White Sox roster reshaping began in earnest. A three-team deal, that also included the Detroit Tigers, had Peavy going to Boston, Avisail Garcia going to the White Sox and infielder Jose Iglesias going to Detroit.

In an odd twist, it is the youngsters Garcia and Iglesias who are out with injuries, while the often-injured Peavy is going strong with a 2.13 ERA in the early part of the season.

Pierzynski signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox this offseason after finishing up a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers last season. The durable catcher played in another 134 games last season, while collecting 529 at-bats. He batted a solid .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs. In 11 games this year, he is batting .314 with one home run and four RBIs.

While the setting might look the same to both former White Sox players, the product on the field will certainly require a double-take. Aside from stretches in 2012, the White Sox have struggled to put runners on base and to deliver the clutch hit. The 2014 White Sox have been the antithesis of that.

Heading into Tuesday night's series opener, the White Sox lead all of baseball in runs scored with 80, on-base percentage at .356 and are second in OPS at .816. Alexei Ramirez leads the AL in hitting with a .420 batting average, a whopping 35 points higher than the next closest player, the Minnesota Tiwns' Jason Kubel. Ramirez also leads in hits (21) and OPS (1.143).

Peavy will pitch in the series opener Tuesday and after his outing is finished he can resume his friendship with a number of players on the White Sox. Starting Wednesday he will get a chance to watch his old buddies from his former rotation take the mound.

"I told Chris Sale, 'I know you wanted Old Man Peavy but you're going to get our left-hander [Jon Lester] Thursday night," Sale told "If you want to be the best left-hander in the league, you got to surpass this guy that we're throwing at you.

"Chris Sale is such a good kid, one of my dear, dear buddies. I pull for him, keep in contact with him on a weekly basis. I tried to be the best role model I could be, the best friend I could be period. He's young, kind of in the same place I was. He had a son at a very young age, we kind of walked through the same path of life. Both from the South, him Florida, me Alabama, we hit it off.

"Johnny Danks, the same way. The three of us are really close."

Pierzynski remains a fan favorite on the South Side, and his bond to Chicago, which started in 2005, remains strong.

"I don't think you can beat Chicago in a lot of things," Pierzynski said. "Lake Shore Drive is about as good as it gets. The city's clean. Nice people, they look out for you and take care of you."


Paul Konerko could start in Wednesday's game, especially since Clay Buchholz will be on the mound for the Red Sox. Konerko is 7-for-15 (.467) lifetime against the left-hander with a home run, three RBIs and two walks. ... The Red Sox's Mike Napoli has 27 career at-bats against Danks, who is scheduled to start Wednesday, and has 13 strikeouts with a .222 batting average. ... Peavy and Adam Dunn are good friends. So how have they fared against each other? Dunn is 5-for-11 with two doubles in his last three games against Peavy, but just 5-for-31 with 11 strikeouts lifetime.


Alexei Ramirez has a hit in all 13 White Sox games this season and needs a hit in two more games to tie Frank Thomas' club record for longest hit streak to open a season. ... White Sox leadoff man Adam Eaton has multiple hits in five consecutive games, the longest such streak for the team since Alex Rios did the same in 2012. ... Conor Gillaspie is on an 11-game hitting streak. ... Jose Abreu has four home runs and 14 RBIs for the White Sox, but is just 1-for-11 over his past three games. ... Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrioa (wrist) and closer Koji Uehara (shoulder) are day to day. ... The Red Sox won last year's series 4-2 and have won 12 of the past 16 games played between the teams going back to 2011.


Tuesday: Red Sox right-hander Jake Peavy (0-0, 2.13 ERA) will face White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson (0-1, 9.58).
Wednesday: Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz (0-1, 6.97) will face White Sox left-hander John Danks (1-0, 4.15).
Thursday: Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (1-2, 2.57) will face White Sox left-hander Chris Sale (3-0, 2.66).

Konerko prefers this offense to 2005

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Bold statements aren't Paul Konerko's thing, but he has witnessed enough of the current Chicago White Sox offense to make one.

Asked if rookie Jose Abreu would have fit in with the 2005 World Series champions, who were known for their knack of situational hitting, Konerko didn't hold back.

"He's thinking out there; he's not just up there hacking," Konerko said of Abreu. "That's how the '05 team was. We had guys who were situationally good, but I think this offense would be way better than that offense was."


"Yeah, for sure, because it seemed like that offense that year just did enough to win. I feel like we can maybe blow out a few more people with our offense here. But then again, that pitching on that team was pretty darn good. You wouldn't have to score as much."

Indeed, the White Sox weren't a dominating offense in 2005, but what they lacked in consistency, they more than made up for in an ability to deliver when the pressure was on. They were merely ninth in the American League in runs scored during the regular season with 741. The Boston Red Sox led the AL with 910.

Their .262 team batting average was just 12th in the AL and their .322 on-base percentage was 11th.

A week and a half into this season, the White Sox led the major leagues in runs per game (6.10) and home runs (15). They were second in batting average .287, OPS (.820), slugging percentage (.472) and on-base percentage (.348).

(Read full post)

Wild win full of White Sox energy

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- It’s amazing what energy and a little blind faith from the younger generation can do to turn around a group’s fortunes.

The Chicago White Sox won a game Wednesday they would have otherwise given away a year ago, overcoming a replay review that went against them -- as well as some bullpen struggles -- to take a 7-6 decision in 11 innings over the Minnesota Twins.

The White Sox trailed by two runs in the ninth inning, tied the game, and then got away with extending relievers to their limits -- like Daniel Webb’s 48-pitch outing -- before winning it.

[+] EnlargeLeury Garcia
AP Photo/Andrew A. NellesWhite Sox second baseman Leury Garcia played hero Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Of course there’s no reason to start printing World Series tickets. Sure the White Sox are 2-0, but they won their first two games last year and look where that got them.

And picking on the rebuilding Twins isn’t a reason to think the White Sox are all of a sudden contenders.

But on a cool afternoon on the South Side, it was as if somebody threw open the windows and let out some of the stench from last season.

Wednesday’s spark plug was little Leury Garcia, who essentially ran through the legs of the Twins in the late innings to give the White Sox a comeback victory. His RBI single in the ninth inning got the White Sox within a run, but it was his fly-in-the-ointment 11th inning that won the day.

Not only did Garcia start the 11th inning with a two-strike bunt single down the third-base line, he went to second base on a balk, to third on a wild pitch and then scored the winner on another wild pitch. The White Sox were simply pleased they weren’t the gift-givers for a change.

“You get momentum from that,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “There are ways to hit a home run and win a game, and there’s another way to manufacture it and come back.

“Coming back and then winning later, I don’t know how many times we did that last year, not many. You end up doing something that feels new and feels fresh for these guys.”

Paul Konerko made his first appearance of the season, starting the ninth-inning rally with a pinch-hit single off the third-base bag. But he departed immediately for pinch runner Adrian Nieto and grabbed a front-row seat on the bench to watch the kids do their thing.

“You have a lot of guys who are playing hard, playing the game right,” Konerko said. “Like I said in spring training, you come out and try to win a baseball game, but there’s obviously a lot of guys who are trying to establish themselves. This is now, this is happening and they know it. And there’s a lot of hunger there to not make an issue out of it and just be the guys they are.

“There are a lot of talented guys, and I think it’s definitely the start of a good cycle, especially from the position-player side. There’s just a lot of guys that can do some things and the intent is there. That’s the main thing. A lot of guys have talent, but these guys want to be really good.”

After owning the disappointing-loss category last season, it seemed the White Sox had tapped a new source of misery when their first ever regular-season replay review went against them. In the seventh inning, after three runs had already scored, Adam Eaton appeared to catch a fly ball by Oswaldo Arcia, only to have it fall to the ground when he transferred it to his throwing hand.

He tried the move so quickly, though, that replay officials in New York City called it a drop. There was a runner at first base at the time, but White Sox infielders neglected to touch second base in case a force out was necessary. Indications were, though, that the ball was declared dead at the moment the replayable issue surfaced.

The White Sox quickly put it behind them, though, when reliever Webb struck out two batters and left fielder Alejandro De Aza threw out a runner at the plate.

By the time the game ended, the temperatureshad dipped to 32 degrees and what was left of an announced crowd of 10,625 could have fit into four or five luxury suites. But nobody was feeling the chill, not even newcomer Eaton, who played the entire game in short sleeves.

“I think you can feel it in the clubhouse, trying to erase last year,” Eaton said. “As much as we all want to say it's over with, I wasn't here, but I can tell by the guys it was a lot to deal with and it still kind of lingers. To get a great win like this early, and a good win on Monday, we're heading in the right direction. We have to keep it going.”

The White Sox will take aim at their first series sweep of the season on Thursday. They didn’t get their first three-game series sweep in 2013 until late May. Their second didn’t come until August.

Heading in the right direction, indeed.

5 for '14: Chances of winning season?

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30
Padilla By Doug Padilla
RamirezAP Photo/Paul BattagliaAlexei Ramirez's growth will be key to the White Sox's success this season.

CHICAGO -- The easy parallel for Chicago White Sox fans to make for their worst-to-first hopes is last year’s World Series champion Boston Red Sox, who bottomed out in the American League East in 2012 only to recover and win it all last year.

If the White Sox are to follow the same path, a lot will have to go right from young offensive pieces reaching their potential early to the pitching staff coming together despite major question marks.

White Sox captain Paul Konerko is as optimistic as they come, and even he didn’t want to go overboard when asked about the team’s chances.

“I’m not going to draw a straight line like everybody is doing to the Red Sox,” he said this spring “I’m not going to go like that, but you see a lot of turnarounds every year and I hope when this one happens with the guys in there, position-player wise, they run it out for a while. That will make me happy.

“Four years from now if this team is a good team year in and year out for that nice four- to six-year run before guys start leaving in free agency and getting older and all that stuff, to know I had a hand in that to help some of these guys along that will make me feel good when I’m playing golf somewhere.”

So even when you break down the captain’s statement, even he isn’t expecting the team to blow through the competition this year. But by breaking it down, you also see that Konerko likes the direction the team has gone, and no doubt he is excited with the moves general manager Rick Hahn made to improve the offense.

So when it comes to deciding if this is a “winning season,” perhaps the answer isn’t as simple as wins and loses. A “winning season” could be as simple as getting on the correct path to sustained success.

If the White Sox aren’t going to end up 25 games over .500, then they must at least show they are getting better as the season moves toward the second half and not get drastically worse like they did last year. If they aren’t going to be knocking on the door of the division leader in August or September, then they at least have to be making life difficult for teams that are starting to print playoff tickets.

Youngsters like Adam Eaton, Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Erik Johnson certainly will struggle at times this season. Prolonged slumps aren’t even out of the question. But if they can emerge from struggles and show they have learned something in the process, then all will not be lost.

Management isn’t saying it is writing off this season. Nobody in the front office is that crazy. But by making the changes it did, everybody from Hahn to executive vice president Kenny Williams to chairman Jerry Riensdorf has admitted that a new direction was needed.


How many victories will the White Sox have in 2014?


Discuss (Total votes: 456)

Konerko liked the changes enough to return for one last season on the South Side. Considering that he wanted to rid himself of the taste that a 99-loss season wrought last year, it seems as if he thinks this season will be markedly different.

Technically, a winning season would mean 82 victories, not impossible but definitely a challenge for a club that could only walk off the field satisfied 63 times last year.

Perhaps a winning season can be defined as a majority of the young players showing they have what it takes to compete at this level. Perhaps success will be the chance to see where the team can grow, instead of having to look back at what went wrong.

If the White Sox can move into next offseason on a positive, they will do so knowing that the contracts of Adam Dunn, Konerko and Matt Lindstrom all come off the books. They will also know what areas of the roster need to be worked on for 2015, although if Garcia and/or Abreu stumble dramatically this season, answers might not come as easy.


1. The White Sox have had a successful run of closers from Keith Foulke to Bobby Jenks to Sergio Santos and Addison Reed. Nate Jones is the next in line, with Daniel Webb possibly behind him, and the quicker they can find somebody to embrace the role, it will be one less piece to have to worry about moving forward. Perhaps recent waiver claim Javy Guerra fills the void until Jones is ready to take over.

2. Matt Davidson won’t start the season in the major leagues, but by no means is the club disappointed in the decision to acquire him from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Reed. Davidson rebounded nicely during the second half of the spring and is expected to eventually be a big part of the young core the club is developing. If all goes to plan, Davidson is getting significant chances later this season and is in line to take over at third base next season.

3. When the White Sox signed Alexei Ramirez to a four-year $32.5 million extension that runs through the 2015 season, the idea was that he would be pushing into the All-Star and Gold Glove conversation by now. He isn’t and the main concern is that there isn’t a slam-dunk option to take over for him at shortstop any time soon. His improvement will be just as vital as any growth seen from Abreu, Garcia or Eaton.

5 for '14: What will be Konerko's impact?

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Paul KonerkoAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWhat can the White Sox expect from Paul Konerko in his final season?
CHICAGO -- Determining whether Paul Konerko goes out with a bang or a whimper won’t be as easy as counting his at-bats and seeing his run-production numbers.

To Konerko, going out with a whimper would have meant retiring after a disappointing 2013 season that saw the White Sox lose 99 games. In Konerko’s mind it’s not about delivering All-Star numbers, it’s about how the team performs. Guess it’s no surprise he’s had a long run as team captain.

If there was an over/under in Las Vegas on how many at-bats Konerko might get this season, the number probably would be in the area of 200. Considering that he has been under 500 just twice in the past 15 seasons, and never under 444 in that stretch, he’s looking at quite a step back.

Konerko is fine with it, though, sounding all spring as if he has come to terms with being an aging role player. Torn over whether or not he should come back, he consulted the White Sox, as well as Adam Dunn, who he could end up taking at-bats from.

Once he found out everybody was on board, he decided to come back in an effort to go out on his terms.

Konerko has never dealt with inconsistent at-bats, which suggests that he might have trouble with the sporadic chances he will get. Konerko typically uses four at-bats a night to work out his issues at the plate and will now have to figure out what is wrong in the batting cage.

But the simple fact that he isn’t seeing this role as a demotion, but rather one final opportunity to perform, puts him ahead of the game.

Even if the numbers suffer this year, Konerko’s mere presence should make a difference. Stepping to the plate in the late innings, carrying with him a history of success in the game could raise an opposing pitcher’s anxiety levels. And any time manager Robin Ventura wants to get the opponent’s nasty left-handed pitcher out of the game, it probably would be as simple as sending up Konerko to pinch hit.

Less visible will be the impact Konerko has on the next generation of White Sox players. He already has invited Adam Eaton to his private hitting sessions, and new first baseman Jose Abreu has remarked that it will be a honor to play alongside such a productive major league player.


How many at-bats will Paul Konerko have this season?


Discuss (Total votes: 447)

Most of all, though, Konerko’s late-inning at-bats will be must-see, on-your-feet events, even if a game is well in hand one way or another.

And who knows? Maybe an injury to Adam Dunn or Abreu, or his own production, will start to push him toward 300, 350, 400 at-bats this year and he is able to turn back the clock for stretches.

Konerko sits 21 home runs behind Frank Thomas on the White Sox’s all-time list and logic says he probably won’t reach his former teammate’s 448 total. But it is that time of the year when optimism trumps logic so maybe he will land atop the list.

At the very least, one more grand slam would give him the all-time franchise lead at 11. He currently sits ties for that mark with his manager, Robin Ventura.


Nagging injuries have crept up on the 38-year old Konerko in each of the past two seasons. Last year was a back issue while in 2012 there was a wrist problem. A reduced schedule should benefit him health wise, although sporadic play and unfamiliar long stretches between activity might not be good for him either.

While Thomas’ 448 career White Sox home runs might be hard to catch for Konerko, there is one milestone that he can reach quite easily in the early part of the season, even if he isn’t playing much. He needs just five total bases to tie the club record of 3,949. The current owner of that mark is, of course, Thomas.

If Konerko is supposed to be the designated hitter against left-handed pitchers, while Adam Dunn faces righties, then he might not start on Opening Day as the Minnesota Twins will have right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the mound. But Ventura did say this week that he is thinking about giving Konerko the start, which would be his 16th consecutive opener overall. He was at first base for 13 White Sox Opening Days and was the DH twice (1999, 2000).

There is still no 'I' in Konerko

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Paul KonerkoAP Photo/Paul SancyaIt's business as usual for Paul Konerko as he enters his final season with the White Sox.
Paul Konerko has turned a selfless approach on the field into one of the more productive careers in Chicago White Sox history, yet a subset of the fan base isn’t on board with his decision to have one last hurrah in 2014.

One critique is that Konerko, 38, is past his prime and more of a liability than asset. Another refrain is that he is taking a roster spot from a younger player. The most pronounced denouncement is that his return has bogged down the roster with three plodding first base types in himself, Adam Dunn and newcomer Jose Abreu.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Paul SancyaPaul Konerko will have a more limited role this season.
Konerko considered all of those issues for more than two months when he pondered his next move following the end of the 2013 season. On one hand was retirement and all the family rewards it would bring, and on the other was one last season to experience the sense of team and be wide-eyed at the idea that he could appreciate every trip to the plate, every trip to a visiting ballpark and every tour of a road city for the last time.

If coming back for one last season on a 400 percent pay cut while probably getting 300 fewer at-bats was going to be considered selfish by some, well, then he was fine with that, especially since he consulted teammates who would be affected by his return and the club opened the door to him putting on the uniform again.

Even when an act might look selfish at face value, Konerko still goes about it in the most selfless way possible.

“I’ve played a long time, but I’ve never gone through a season where you know, ‘OK, this is the end of it,’ so how that all unfolds and how you feel at different moments, you’ll just have to wait and see,” Konerko said at the start of spring training. “I’ll try to give as honest answers and be as up front with it as I can as we go. But I can’t possibly answer how I’m going to feel in June or August. It’s tough for me. I don’t know.

“It’s the first time I’m going through this, and the last time. But I definitely have some thoughts on things as far as stuff you want to take in along the way that’s alongside the baseball stuff, but just stuff you know, ‘OK, this is the last time I’m going to do this and I need to take advantage of it.’ I have some thoughts on that kind of stuff, but nothing that’s going to get in the way of doing the job.”

In the end, it’s about the job. Of course it is. This is Paul Konerko.

Yet some still aren’t on board with a conscientious hard worker who thrives on team more than self, who remained loyal despite offers of more money on two separate contract negotiation periods, won the MVP in the 2005 American League Championship Series and had the sense at the pinnacle of his career (the final out of the ’05 World Series) to hide the ball and present it to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who cried at the thoughtfulness of the simple gift.


Most fans are appreciative that Konerko is returning, of course. At least that’s how it seems. Perhaps it’s simply the cheers for every Konerko at-bat at sparsely attended Cactus League games that overwhelm the groans of those who can’t see the point.

At least two major league managers are thrilled to see Konerko give it one last go-round. The Milwaukee Brewers' Ron Roenicke and the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Scioscia have probably known Konerko longer than anybody in the White Sox organization.

As a 19-year-old in 1995, Konerko played at Single-A San Bernardino of the California League a year after being drafted in the first round (13th overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Roenicke was the San Bernardino manager that year and Scioscia was the club’s roving catching instructor. It was the final season Konerko would catch.

The stats from that season don’t exactly leap off the page. Konerko hit 19 home runs with 77 RBIs and had a .277 batting average with a .455 slugging percentage. But he showed he could put the ball in play, striking out 88 times in 519 plate appearances.

What has stuck with both current managers most was a single moment in that year’s California League championship series when Roenicke operated on a hunch and Konerko unflinchingly delivered.

“It was first and second and nobody out in the game they clinched (the title) and Ron just asked him, ‘Can you bunt?’” Scioscia said. “He said, ‘Sure,’ and he put down a perfect sacrifice bunt. I think that’s what Paul’s about. I think he’s always been a winner. He has a deep understanding of the game, a deep passion for the game.”

Konerko still has a vivid recollection of the moment too, although his isn’t as much about having that deep understanding as much as it was having a respect for authority.

“I was 19 years old,” he said. “At that point, I don’t even know how professional baseball works or anything about it. I’m just learning it. A coach asks you to bunt, a manager asks you to bunt, you bunt. I never thought anything about, ‘Oh geez, I hit some home runs this year, this isn’t right.’ I never thought along those lines.

“I’m not sure if I was even swinging the bat well at the time. That could have played into it. But I also know I never really bunted, either, so it was kind of a bold call. Luckily the guy threw a fastball right down the middle and it was about the easiest pitch you can bunt, and I got it down.”

Roenicke remembers Konerko’s approach well from that one season together, and the longevity of the White Sox’s captain doesn’t surprise him.

“He has a really good head,” Roenicke said. “He can help your younger players and how you should think and approach the things at the plate. And he gets how to hit. He can drive the ball out of any part of the ballpark, which helps, but he understands what a hitter needs to do to be successful at this level and how you make adjustments.”

Both men saw it firsthand in 2005 with Roenicke as the Angels’ bench coach sitting right next to Scioscia in the dugout. While the White Sox’s starting pitching got the most acclaim that series for delivering four consecutive complete games against the Angels, Konerko was the offensive star, delivering a home run in Games 3 and 4 and finishing the series with seven RBIs.

“It’s what guys do when the games are on the line,” Roenicke said. “I know at the end of the season you can look at the numbers and see a guy has 25 homers, 90 RBIs, but how much did they have an impact on your team? When you need him, what does he do? There are some guys that put up great numbers and they really don’t make a big difference on winning or losing. Konerko made a big difference. When the game was on the line and you needed a hit, he gave you a great at-bat. Those are the guys you want on your team.”


Despite some physical limitations, Konerko has delivered with the best of them. His slow foot speed is obvious and his range on defense isn’t exactly up there with the best first basemen in the game. His catching career actually ended before he turned 20 because he wasn’t flexible enough in his hips to get into a proper crouch.

Offensively, though, he hardly seemed limited. His 427 home runs are second in franchise history to Frank Thomas' 448. He is also second to Thomas in RBIs with 1,361, third in doubles with 398 and third in hits with 2,249, behind Nellie Fox (2,470) and Luke Appling (2,749).

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhPaul Konerko's 427 home runs and 1,361 RBIs are second in franchise history to Frank Thomas.
Konerko insists that the success is in the details. That old adage of watching the pennies and letting the dollars fall into place was how Konerko approached his baseball career.

“There aren’t too many times during a season that lend itself to have a chance to show [selfless play],” Konerko said. “There are a lot of things I can’t do. When you’re a guy who can run or steal bases or play shortstop and do all those things, there are many moments throughout the season when you can do the little things more to help and be noticed with those things.

“For a guy like me it usually comes down to a guy on second, nobody out trying to get that guy over. If there is a guy on second and you’re on defense, you try to dive and stop a ball from going into the outfield. Everybody up here can play, everybody up here has talent, but unless you’re going to be some superstar and will hit 50 home runs and drive in 120 runs every year, it’s those little things that will build your value as a player and make teams want to keep you or make teams want you.”

A slow-footed player who got the most out of his ability also describes Scioscia. And the two could have been united in Southern California had Konerko accepted more money and moved to the Angels following the 2005 season.

“Naturally, we would have loved to have signed Paul, but in that process we even gained more respect for him because he made the decisions for the right reasons,” Scioscia said. “He wasn’t out chasing the most money. He wasn’t out looking for the most notoriety. In the end he stayed in Chicago because of loyalty, because of a comfort level and thinking that he had the opportunity to repeat and win a championship there. I think that’s what Paul is about.”

He’s back now and ready to wear the uniform one last time, at peace with that decision and not willing to apologize to those who think this is an improper fit. His conscientious approach to each at-bat and keen awareness of his limitations give him the ideal mindset for coming off the bench in the late innings or grabbing a start after a week of pinch-hitting duties.

As a compromise for delaying his family-man status or one final year, he will bring his wife and three kids on more road trips than ever before. And it typical Konerko fashion, he says those family trips will still take a backseat to his team requirements.

Konerko doesn’t want to sail away with the stench of the 99-loss 2013 season lingering in the air. So he’s doing this one last time, on his terms -- sort of. He’s doing it the best way his conscience will allow him to.

And please, no gifts.

“I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings; I don’t want to come off like I don’t care, but anybody that has been around me knows it’s just not something that’s really important to me as far as the moments of people recognizing you,” Konerko said. “Maybe I’ll take it in a little more than I normally would. Certainly off the field with the guys on the road and the traveling and family stuff, there’s going to be more stuff that goes on than in a normal year that I’ll do on my own.

“I’ll just have to wait and see how that all plays out. I’m definitely not asking for it. I appreciate it, but it’s certainly not necessary. There’s only a handful of guys every year that you know their situation, but I appreciate it. I’m pretty focused when I come into work every day. I always try to do things the same as it was 10 years ago.”

Jose Quintana 'strong' in spring debut

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
Padilla By Doug Padilla
The first spring start is all about shaking out the cobwebs. In that sense, the Chicago White Sox are more than pleased with Jose Quintana’s Cactus League debut Monday.

The left-hander, who topped the 200-inning mark in his first full season last year, gave up two runs on two hits over two innings against the Kansas City Royals, while walking two with one strikeout. He allowed both of his runs to score after retiring the first two batters of the second inning.

“He was fine,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura told reporters in Arizona. “He was picking around the plate a little early. I think with two outs, just picking a little bit too much and gets in trouble. Other than that, he was fine. He got through it. He was strong.”

The clear-cut No. 2 starter in the White Sox’s rotation will make an extremely affordable $550,000 this year. And if he can top the 200-inning mark again -- while delivering something close to his career 3.61 ERA -- the White Sox will be getting one of the better bargains in baseball.

“He’s a good enough pitcher and strong enough to do it,” Ventura said about Quintana again exceeding 200 innings. “I’m glad he has that kind of a goal for himself to be able to do that. He should be able to do that.”

The White Sox eventually topped the Royals 9-7, thanks to a four-run sixth inning, topped by two more runs in the seventh.

Andy Wilkins, Paul Konerko and Jordan Danks each had two hits for the White Sox. Wilkins got the scoring started with a three-run home run in the first inning.

Dunn not a fan of new collision rule

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
Padilla By Doug Padilla
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Chicago White Sox power hitter Adam Dunn went on the record Tuesday blasting the new rules protecting catchers, while admitting he doesn’t completely understand all the changes.

The intent of the rule changes is to avoid unnecessary collisions at the plate, preventing a runner from going out of his way to crash into the catcher. Dunn, though, wants to know if any consideration was given to baserunners who might injure themselves by taking a last-second route to avoid making contact with the catcher.

“I see leg (injuries), fingers,” Dunn said. “Guys are going to have to slide more, so they’re probably going to do a lot more head-first sliding. It’s only been that way 100-something years.”

Dunn’s primary contention seemed to be that in the past when a baserunner was thrown out by 10-15 feet, he still had the home-plate collision at his disposal in order to score.

“For me, especially, when I was on second and got pinch ran for, I’ll always tell Robin (Ventura), ‘Ball might beat me, but I’ve got a decent chance of scoring still,’” Dunn said. “I can see myself getting pinch ran for quite a bit more. I’m pretty much useless.”

Even the threat of the collision was a tool baserunners used. Now, Dunn says the aesthetics of the play at home could get awkward.

“Guys pulling up and just letting the catcher tag you, that looks pretty bad,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of that because if you’re out for 10 to 15 feet, where normally you had at least a chance to score. Slide when you’re 15 feet out? No, you’re just going to run and let him tag you and look like you’re not trying.”

Told that players could still crash into the catcher if their path to home plate was blocked, an exasperated Dunn felt as if the baserunner now has too many decision to make in a split second.

Paul Konerko, a former minor league catcher, joked that he was held at third base in Tuesday’s intrasquad game because nobody was sure of the new rule.

He had his own unique take on the change.

“We’ll have to see how that plays out; I almost feel bad for the umpires,” Konerko said. “It’s like the rule when a guy they feel is throwing intentionally at somebody they have to throw him out (of the game). We’ll have to wait and see. I’m guessing the reaction most times will be in favor of the catcher. If a guy gets run over they’ll say it’s the runner’s fault, which is why the rule is in place anyway, to protect the catcher.”

Konerko likes roster's size, drive

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
Padilla By Doug Padilla
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.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
AP Photo/Paul SancyaPaul Konerko is confident he can still contribute to the Sox in a more limited role.
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."

Konerko will continue to stress to players such as Garcia, Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson that this is the time to take advantage of your gifts.

"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."

For now, Garcia is leader of young pack

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
Padilla By Doug Padilla
GLENDALE, Ariz. – It was going to take more than a toe injury to keep a determined Avisail Garcia off the field.

Garcia, who underwent a procedure for an ingrown toenail on Friday, was back in the batting cage Saturday after manager Robin Ventura suggested his right fielder might take the weekend off.

“Right now there is a little pain,” Garcia said. “But I think I’m going to be good for (Sunday). I didn't want to go home (and be off Saturday). I came here to work. That’s something that happened, but I want to get ready. They don’t want me to run fast. I just hit and threw. We’ll see what happens (Sunday).”

It’s so early in the spring that a day off or two would hardly be an issue. But Garcia’s insistence on getting at least some work done Saturday is another example of a solid work ethic from a young player.

Jose Abreu has led the team in that department by arriving to Arizona more than two weeks before the reporting date for position players and taking a business-like approach to what are sometimes marathon batting-cage sessions.

Where Garcia has Abreu beat is that his adjustment to the White Sox’s way of life already got started over the final two months of last season.

“I know the guys, I know the country, I know the stadium, the fans,” Garcia said. “It’s been great. It’s a great organization. It’s a great opportunity for me to be here and have the chance to play every day. We’ll see what happens this season.”

His familiarity with the White Sox has allowed him to help Abreu get adjusted.

“You say to him, ‘Do what you know to do, play hard and that’s the only way you’re going to get better,’” Garcia said. “Play hard and play with your heart.”

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A lot being asked of plucky Eaton

February, 22, 2014
Feb 22
Padilla By Doug Padilla
GLENDALE, Ariz. – With speed, solid defense and an ability to get on base, Adam Eaton is exactly what the Chicago White Sox needed after a disastrous 2013, all rolled into one package.

The only issue appears to be a lack of experience and a small major league sample size that shows there is still plenty of growth that needs to take place.

[+] EnlargeAdam Eaton
Dustin Bradford/Getty ImagesAfter coming over from the Diamondbacks, Adam Eaton is expected to give the White Sox a spark at the top of the lineup.
Paul Konerko has already tried to speed up that learning curve by welcoming the White Sox’s new leadoff hitter into his personal offseason hitting sessions. Manager Robin Ventura will take it a step further on Opening Day when he is expected to give Eaton the opportunity to lead the offense.

There is no avoiding the fact, though, that a lot will be asked from a player who has never been relied on to make such an impact at the game’s highest level.

“He has a lot of positives, but it’s not just on him,” Ventura said Saturday. “You hate to put everything on him, it’s just a piece of the puzzle for putting the lineup together early. Guys like him have been able to raise the intensity and the level of other people in the lineup, and hopefully he can do that."

Part of Eaton’s appeal is his high energy, and he has already shown an engaging style in the clubhouse, developing early lines of communication with his new teammates.

Konerko has already praised the change from Alejandro De Aza to Eaton, essentially saying that it will be the jolt the lineup needs.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, him coming in,” Ventura said. “And he’s confident. That’s where you start.”

It's fitting then that Eaton will be asked to make his impact from the starting spot of the lineup. His minor league track record suggests a guy who gets on base at all costs. His stolen-base totals, though, don’t necessarily fit in with the scouting report that says Eaton is as fast as they come in baseball.

Case in point, White Sox prospect Micah Johnson led minor league baseball last season with a combined 84 steals over three separate levels. Eaton has never stolen more than 44 bases in a season while in the Arizona Diamondbacks' system. He had 38 in 2012 when he posted a whopping .456 on-base percentage.

In 380 at-bats with the Diamondbacks over the past two seasons, Eaton has just seven steals.

The White Sox know that some of the reason for the low numbers can be attributed to the Diamondbacks' more conservative base-running style that starts at the organization’s highest level. Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson isn’t as fond of the stolen base as others in his position, and strategies like that tend to trickle down to the lower levels.

Now the White Sox want to see first-hand if those low stolen-base numbers also have something to do with Eaton’s technique.

“We’ll find that out down here,” Ventura said. “You can give a guy a little freedom to run and see what he’s got. I haven’t seen a ton of it. Until you play you’re not going to find out, was that his style or he was shut down, or anything like that?”

Ventura talked Saturday as if Eaton still has to beat out somebody for the Opening Day center field nod. It’s pretty obvious, though, that barring injury or a completely unforeseen disaster during Cactus League games, Eaton will be the first White Sox hitter to come to the plate on March 31 against the Minnesota Twins.

There really seems to be no question about it. The White Sox’s new look depends on it. And if Eaton’s steal numbers do have something to do with his approach on the bases, the White Sox seem sure it’s an element their new leadoff man can learn.

“He comes in with an intensity that a lot of people don’t have,” Ventura said. “That’s something that was given to him a long time ago that’s unique to him, and that’s a positive.”

Dunn stressing less stress

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Paul Konerko, Adam DunnHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesAdam Dunn and Paul Konerko will be sharing time with new addition Jose Abreu this season.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While Paul Konerko soaked in some first-day adoration Thursday at the Chicago White Sox's spring training facility, Adam Dunn spoke about the upcoming season Thursday with far less fanfare.

The embattled slugger, whose three seasons of struggles have sparked venom among the team’s faithful, is in the final year of a four-year, $56 million contract that hasn’t yielded the club nearly as much production as was expected.

Yet in order to deliver in the final season of the contract, Dunn knows that getting back on track won't happen in one or two at-bats or even a single week of games.

“It’s the same as I’ve been for the past three years; nothing’s changed,” Dunn said. “I still feel the same way I did from Day 1 when I stepped on the field. I’m going to do everything I can to get ready for Opening Day and have a good year.”

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Chris Sale
3 2.30 29 27
BAA. Ramirez .379
HRA. Ramirez 4
RBIA. Ramirez 14
RA. Eaton 15
OPSA. Ramirez 1.044
ERAC. Sale 2.30
SOC. Sale 29