Part-time role perfect for White Sox captain Konerko
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter December 4, 2013 9:29PM
Updated: December 4, 2013 10:19PM
Not playing every day won’t be an issue for Paul Konerko. The White Sox’ 37-year-old captain and six-time All-Star, who announced his decision Wednesday to play one more season, said he doesn’t have full-time work left in the tank, anyway.
Embracing a part-time role as a designated hitter against some left-handed pitching for $2.5 million — $1 million of which will be deferred to 2021 — Konerko believes he has enough left to contribute occasional offense and leadership for younger players, particularly the guy who signed a $68 million contract to take his starting job, Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu.
“I’m excited about it because, truthfully, I wouldn’t be coming back to any situation if I knew I was slated to play a lot,’’ said Konerko, who turns 38 on March 5.
“To have this role, I can have a great year, a great week or a great day, and it might not show up on the scoresheet. I couldn’t sign up for 130 or 160 games because that is probably something I couldn’t deliver on.’’
Konerko, whose 434 home runs rank fifth among active players, is second on the Sox’ all-time leaderboard in homers (427), RBI (1,361), total bases (3,944) and games (2,187). A career .281 hitter, Konerko slipped to .244 last season with 12 homers. He hit .313 in 99 at-bats against lefties, though, with five homers and a .923 OPS.
“Some of the farthest balls I hit in the last five or six years were last year,’’ Konerko said. “There were moments there; it just wasn’t consistent.’’
General manager Rick Hahn clearly spelled out Konerko’s role in the team’s press release.
“Paul will play an important role on the 2014 team by collecting at-bats as the designated hitter against certain left-handed pitching, by assisting Jose Abreu’s transition into the role of primary first baseman, as an option for [manager] Robin [Ventura] off the bench in specific game situations and as an incredibly important mentor and leader within our clubhouse.’’
Hahn and Ventura downplayed restraints Konerko, who said he received interest from a playoff team for a part-time role, will put on the 25-man roster. Having a first baseman and DH as one of four bench players limits Ventura’s flexibility and almost ensures a job for Leury Garcia (acquired in the Alex Rios trade) because he can play shortstop and all three outfield positions. Hahn did not rule out the possibility of an 11-man pitching staff.
“It’s something we’ve talked about, and based upon the personnel we have by the time we get to spring training, it’s something we need to consider,’’ Hahn said.
Konerko said he envisioned 2013 as being his last season, expecting “the team doing at least as good if not better [than 2012] and saying, ‘That’s it.’ But everything went to shambles. In every direction you could equate something, last year was a disaster.
“I hope I can impact some games in a good way. I just know where this team ended up, and I just feel like I have something to offer. I had a hard time turning my back on that. My only goal is at every turn to get this team going in the right direction.’’