AWOL power stroke plagues Paul Konerko
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com May 19, 2013 9:12PM
Paul Konerko, Chris Iannetta
AT WHITE SOX
The facts: 7:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM.
The starters: Jon Lester (6-0, 2.72 ERA) vs. Dylan Axelrod (1-3, 4.27).
REST OF THE SERIES
Tuesday: 7:10 p.m., Ch. 26, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Felix Doubront (3-1, 6.03) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1, 3.97).
Wednesday: 7:10 p.m., CSN, 670-AM, 97.5-FM. Clay Buchholz (6-0, 1.78) vs. Chris Sale (5-2, 2.53).
Updated: May 19, 2013 9:51PM
ANAHEIM, Calif. — One fourth of the way into the season, Paul Konerko has four home runs, slightly off his customary pace and what he would need to catch Frank Thomas for the White Sox’ all-time record. A .224 batting average after the Sox’ 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels is below his standards, as well.
Manager Robin Ventura said Sunday he doesn’t care about Konerko’s numbers. The last thing he wants to do is make Konerko fight and grind harder than he already does.
“I don’t want to put it out that he has to hit homers. Just hit it hard,’’ Ventura said. “He has the ability to hit it out of the ballpark, but I don’t want it to be an all-or-nothing thing that he has got to start forcing himself to do. Be the hitter you are and be a tough out or at-bat, and the rest will take care of itself.’’
Konerko popped out to second base, lined out to third, grounded out to third and flied out to left field Sunday. He hasn’t hit a home run since April 28 or a double since May 4. On a team struggling to hit, getting him going is key. Ventura sees signs of that.
“Some of the at-bats, the ball’s coming off the bat a little different, he’s getting it through the zone,’’ Ventura said.
Ventura is navigating through what could develop into a delicate time for one of the Sox’ all-time greats. Because he’s 37, analysis of Konerko’s power production comes with the question of whether he has declined. It happens to every great player at some point.
It’s too soon to make a conclusion on a topic Konerko himself touched on the first day of spring training, when he talked about his future after this season. He said he would see how it goes this year.
Ventura said he doesn’t see a falloff.
“You don’t see when he’s swinging or doing anything, you don’t sit there and there’s not an alarm that goes off from just watching him swing,’’ Ventura said.
After Konerko showed some frustration last Sunday, Ventura gave him two days off.
“You get angry with yourself when you go through that and you want to do more,’’ Ventura said. “But you hit a day like [Saturday, when Konerko was 3-for-5], where he realizes the way it feels when he does it. So I think it was a positive sign of his mentally coming out of it yesterday.’’
“It was a good day to build off of, yeah,’’ Konerko said.
Ventura said Konerko’s swing looks fine.
“It comes down to pitch selection,’’ Ventura said. “He has mechanics, he has the ability to get the bat through the zone. You can sit there and talk mechanics all you want, but in the end, it’s going to be pitch selection and how you attack it.’’
Konerko is adjusting to an enhanced DH role (20 of 39 games) and a new routine that goes with it.
“You want to stay loose but not overdo it with the swings,’’ he said “You can have four at-bats and it feels like you got ready for nine. That can hurt you the next day. So you have to take it easy.’’
His concern is the effect it has on his fielding.
“I want to make sure if I’m still going to play some first I’m going to stay sharp,’’ he said. “I want to make plays I normally make. The game can go fast sometimes when you’re not out there.’’