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Paul Konerko might not be in starting lineup for last Opening Day

Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko signs autographs before an exhibitibaseball game Glendale Ariz. Saturday March 8 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko signs autographs before an exhibition baseball game in Glendale, Ariz., Saturday, March 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) ORG XMIT: AZPS1

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Updated: April 28, 2014 10:36AM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox captain Paul Konerko has experienced so many Opening Days during his career that it won’t be a big deal if he’s not in the starting lineup Monday.

Not to him, anyway, even though this will be his last one. In fact, Konerko — who is retiring after the season — doesn’t expect to start with right-hander Ricky Nolasco on the mound for the Minnesota Twins. On most days, Adam Dunn will be the designated hitter against right-handers and Konerko against lefties. That is what Konerko signed on for.

‘‘I’m not making the lineup out, but I’m just saying from the matchups and what I’ve heard, I would not [guess I’m starting],’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a righty starting for Minnesota, so I’d think not.’’

Not that Konerko wouldn’t enjoy being in there Opening Day.

‘‘They’re great, for sure,’’ he said. ‘‘You remember all of them. You can remember as a player what years, where you opened up, who you faced, what teams they were.’’

There is little doubt most fans at U.S. Cellular Field would like to have another Konerko memory to call their own. And manager Robin Ventura said he still might pencil Konerko into the lineup, which probably won’t be announced till the Sox hold a workout Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.

‘‘Doesn’t matter,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘A plan’s a plan. Between L.A. [he started his career with the Dodgers] and here, I have probably 15 [or] 16 of them, so I know what it feels like. I think some of that stuff . . . it’s not really meaningful to me. It’s meaningful as I’m doing it, but whether it’s 15 or 16 or 16 turns into 17, does it really matter? No. The main thing is the game is what matters because it counts and you want to get going right off the bat. But whatever the plan is, that’s when
it starts.’’

Dunn never has been a platoon player, but he is on board with sharing time.

‘‘Whatever is best,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m preparing like I always have for
every single year, for 162 games and 700 at-bats, and adjust accordingly.’’

Monday will be the first major-league game for Cuban star Jose Abreu, the $68 million free agent who is taking over for Konerko at first base. Abreu never has played in the cold, so he’ll be in for a rude awakening. Konerko was brought back to help Abreu’s transition, and he’ll start with some cold-weather advice: Don’t go for the long ball in the first two months of the season.

‘‘It just sucks,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘There’s no other way to describe it. There’s no good thing about cold weather at all. Baseball’s not meant to be played in cold weather. I
always feel like April and May, those are the tough times. You’ve really got to scrape and grind, and you can’t try to get big.

‘‘That would be the only advice to any hitter. Resist the urge to try to get big early. Just try to scrape by. If you pop a few out, that’s great. Then when it gets hot, that’s when you want to make hay and really take some chances.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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