For Konerko, victory lap with White Sox begins

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 3:20 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Chicago White Sox pitchers stretch during spring training baseball practice in Glendale, Ariz., Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Paul Konerko figures there will be emotional moments as he winds through his final season with the Chicago White Sox.

Just don't expect him to get all misty eyed for his final spring training.

The six-time All-Star made that clear Thursday as the White Sox conducted their first full squad workout, the start of a season-long victory lap for a slugger who ranks among the club's all-time leaders in homers and RBIs.

"There will probably be some moments where you're a little bit sad about something you're not going to get to do again, but spring training is not going to be one of them," Konerko said. "I think most guys feel the same way. I've never done one I actually like more than probably the next guy. The whole spring, everything that goes on, there are some fun parts, but I think most guys would rather just snap their fingers and be ready without having to do it all. You wouldn't get any complaints, so this one is not a bad one to check off."

He's back for his 16th season in Chicago and 18th in the majors after he decided to sign a one-year, $2.5 million contract rather than retire or play elsewhere, and he's hoping to end his career on a positive note after he and the team struggled in 2013.

The White Sox lost 99 games last season while finishing last in the AL Central, and Konerko barely resembled the slugger who for years anchored the lineup. He hit .244 with just 12 homers and 54 RBIs, and after a long deliberation, he ultimately decided he didn't want his career to end on such a low note.

So he's back, albeit in a more limited role.

With his 38th birthday approaching next month, he understands his days of hitting 30 homers and driving in 100 runs are over. Now, it's about leadership. It's about mentoring. He's more of a player-coach, someone who can pinch hit or fill in as part of a three-man rotation at first base with newcomer Jose Abreu and designated hitter Adam Dunn.

"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," Konerko said.

One thing he would rather not do — a farewell tour this season.

"When I was making the decision to come back this year that was in the con pile," Konerko said. "It's tough because it's that balance between you have a lot of people come up and want to say something and I have to not disregard it. 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. ... I'm definitely not asking for it. I appreciate it but it's certainly not necessary."

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