Sox Drawer: Konerko close to retirement?

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Sox Drawer: Konerko close to retirement?

Every baseball player has his own shelf life in this game. Some know when their time is up. Others stick around long past their prime.

For Paul Konerko, his mind and body will know exactly when it's time to retire, and it might come sooner than you think.

Konerko has two years remaining on his contract, and while he's focused on having another big season for the White Sox, he gave his first hint that 2013 might be his last in a big league uniform.

"No doubt it could be," Konerko said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "Yeah, in all reality I would see it ending after next year or maybe another year. I mean, at some point you got to go home and be around your kids and have other things to do."

At a time when most players see their hitting numbers decline, Konerko has been exactly the opposite. The 13-year veteran has had a career renaissance in his mid-30s, especially in the last two seasons in which he has averaged 35 home runs and 108 RBIs. Can he keep up that pace at age 36 and 37? That's a mystery. Will he continue playing the moment he sees his skills diminish? That isn't.

"There's obviously this year and I have another year left on the contract, and I would not have signed up for that if I didn't think I could pull it off," Konerko said. "But at that point I'll be 38 years old going into the following year. If someone wants me, and I'm willing to do the work it takes through the offseason, and through spring training and through the year, then I would be willing to play.

"But if any of those things don't exist, I would never just play to say, 'Well, this team wants me and I can kind of hang on for another year and kind of go through the motions here,'" Konerko explained. "I have to be doing what I know it takes for me to play. Otherwise, it's not for me. I have to do the crazy amounts of preparation. It has to be there. If I'm not willing to do all the grind, then I've got some other things I'd like to do."

When Konerko does retire, he will be sorely missed. Not just for his play and leadership, but for his keen perspective on the game. Few people see things the way he does. Even fewer can actually articulate them.

Let's start with the lost season of 2011:

"I don't think there was a moment last year from the word go where at anytime did we feel like, 'This is kind of special' or 'This is inspiring baseball.' There's always going to be a couple teams every year that has that happen to them, and unfortunately we were one of them," Konerko said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find four or five days in a row where it felt like things were starting to go. We'd have two or three maybe. That was the most we ever had. It was a grind. It was not what you're looking for."

If the 2011 regular season was bad, the current offseason appears to be worse. The Sox have lost Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin, and have question marks replacing all three of them. Fans and media sense utter doom. What does Konerko think?
"If I was one of the options, then Robin was a heck of a hire!-- Paul Konerko.
"The only time I have won a World Series, the offseason leading up to it was kind of similar to this where there were a lot people not happy with the moves that were made. A lot of people saying, 'What did we do this for?' And then we went out had a great year and won a World Series. I'm not saying that's going to happen again, but I always keep that in the back of my mind. Anytime you think on paper something is supposed to happen the next year."

Many thought the playoffs would happen for the Sox last year. Clearly that didn't happen. They got off to that terrible 11-22 start and finished 16 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. Excitement and attendance nose-dived, leaving the franchise stumbling to get back on its feet. For the fans to return, Konerko knows exactly what the White Sox need to do: Win.

"It's kind of like we're starting fresh. We're really like at zero, and we have to build it back up and earn people's, the fans' trust to come back out and see us. The whole thing," Konerko said. "We're kind of just starting out at square one again, but that doesn't mean that you're conceding anything. I just think it means you're looking to get a fresh change, and just start everything all over again."

That means taking baby steps forward, starting with Opening Day in Texas on April 6. For the White Sox to make it back, Konerko believes it will have to be a slow, methodical climb throughout the season.

"I think for us, I think we should focus more on small goals. We're going to start off playing meaningful games Opening Day and let's just see how long we can be playing meaningful games. Not say that we're going to make the playoffs, not say we're going to do this or that. Let's just see how long we can play the game right, and stay in the mix, and if it gets to September or August, and we're in the mix, then great. Just start off with more smaller thoughts about how we're going to do everything is my opinion."

You wonder why Kenny Williams actually considered making Konerko the White Sox player-manager this season? This is why.

So what did Konerko think when he heard that idea? He chose to take the humorous, sarcastic route.

"I know that when they hired Robin Ventura everybody was like, 'Robin was a great big league player,' and what I'm hearing about his experience is that he coached his son's high school team for a while. That's his experience at managing or coaching. And then it comes out that they were considering hiring me as playermanager. Then you look at Robin and you say, 'That was a great choice,' because if I was one of the options, then Robin was a heck of a hire!"

But would Konerko ever consider managing?

"I'm probably going to be like Robin 10 years ago and say I'll never manage," Konerko said.

And then you'll manage?

"I don't know about that."

What we do know is that Konerko's playing time is running out. Knowing Paul, he's going to make the best of what's left and walk proudly into the sunset.

Few players leave the game just before their expiration date. Konerko seems poised to be one of them.

White Sox offense struggles in front of Quintana in shutout loss to Twins

White Sox offense struggles in front of Quintana in shutout loss to Twins

The White Sox haven’t had many big hits in their last dozen games.

The White Sox never seem to deliver any timely knocks in Jose Quintana starts.

Those two forces collided in a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night in front of 22,072 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Quintana allowed two Brian Dozier home runs, including a decisive three-run shot in the sixth inning, and dropped a seventh straight decision. His offense finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position as Kyle Gibson twirled seven scoreless innings.

Outfielder Melky Cabrera also left the game early with a sore left wrist.

“We didn’t do nothing as hitters,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We have to find a way. We had an off day. Everybody was nice and relaxed coming back. We’re professionals here as hitters. We have to find ways to get guys in.”

The White Sox didn’t have many shots against Gibson.

They butchered those that they did.

No opportunity was bigger than the third inning, which began with singles by J.B. Shuck and Tim Anderson in front of the team’s 2-3-4 hitters. But Gibson delivered and the White Sox failed yet again.

Down 1-0, Adam Eaton couldn’t move the runners over as he flew out to center. Jose Abreu followed suit and flew out to center before Cabrera — who left in the top of the seventh and is listed as day-to-day — popped out to second.

One inning earlier, Brett Lawrie was stranded in scoring position when Gibson got Avisail Garcia to chase a two-strike pitch off the plate and in the dirt. It was more of the same in the fifth when Eaton flew out to center with a man on second. And again in the seventh when Shuck flew out and Anderson grounded into a fielder’s choice with two aboard.

“It started out well,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You get them on there. Any time we seemed to get something going against Gibson, he just really started going soft and using your aggressiveness against you. I think that's part of what played into it. He had a very good changeup, he used his curve when he had to. He went a little bit backwards. Any time we got into an aggressive count, he just took a little off. We couldn't get anything going against him.”

The team’s effort was the continuance of a nasty trend.

The White Sox are 12-for-98 (.122) with runners in scoring position in their last 12 games. The lengthy slump dropped them from hitting a formidable .260 with RISP, which ranked in the top half of the league, to below .240, which ranks in the bottom third.

That the performance arrived with Quintana on the mound should come as no surprise.

Whereas the White Sox scored 25 runs in Quintana’s first seven starts, they’ve relapsed into their old non-scoring selves whenever he takes the hill. Over his last nine starts, Quintana has had nine runs of support.

The left-hander said the lack of support isn’t something he focuses on because it’s out of his hands.

“I don’t have control on the runs,” Quintana said. “I say the same every time. But I don’t have control, man. I try to keep going. I try to be better next time and keep going. Next time be better out there, better outing and better everything.

“I never think about that. I just try to pay attention and do my job, focusing on throwing the ball well and that’s it.”

Quintana made two mistakes in seven otherwise solid innings.

Dozier’s solo homer to leadoff the second inning gave the Twins, who improved to 25-51, a one-run lead.

Eduardo Nunez then led off the sixth inning with a single and stole second base. He advanced to third on a passed ball. Quintana then walked Joe Mauer and Dozier made him pay when he got enough of a 2-1 curveball low and in to drive it out for a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead.

Quintana — who is 5-8 despite a 3.18 ERA — allowed six hits, walked one and struck out eight.

“I’m sure inside he’s frustrated,” Frazier said. “I would be too. He’s a competitor, gives it his all. One bad pitch.”

Tonight on CSN: White Sox continue series with Twins

Tonight on CSN: White Sox continue series with Twins

The White Sox take on the Twins on Wednesday evening, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with first pitch at 7:10 p.m.

Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: James Shields (2-9, 6.22) vs. Ricky Nolasco (3-5, 4.95)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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White Sox: Justin Morneau continues to progress, could start rehab next week

White Sox: Justin Morneau continues to progress, could start rehab next week

Justin Morneau is pleased with his progress and if it continues he could be headed out on a rehab assignment next week.

With his former team in town Tuesday, the veteran said he would travel with the White Sox to Houston over the weekend and figure out the next step if all in his rehab goes well. Morneau, who had elbow surgery last December, said he felt good headed into Tuesday’s workout after he took two days of batting practice over the weekend. The ex-Minnesota Twins player doesn’t anticipate he’d return to the lineup until sometime after the All-Star break.

“As long as everything goes good through the rest of this homestand and then in Houston, I think we’ll kind of assess where we’re at there,” Morneau said. “Everything so far up to this point, every time we’ve increased the activity and increased the intensity of it, everything has reacted well. Hopefully, it continues to go that way.”

Morneau expects he’d need a lengthy rehab once he gets underway. Not only does he have to acclimate to game speed once again — “there’s only one way to really find out,” he said — but Morneau needs to build up his endurance. He actually has worked hard to be prepared for that, he said, knowing he won’t have a month like spring training. And, Morneau also has to get his swing back in order after a layoff since the end of last season.

“I don’t know how many days that’s going to take,” Morneau said. “Once I go on a rehab assignment, I can’t see it being less than 30 at-bats before I’ll be ready. But who knows, I could feel great after 20 or whatever. But to say less than that would probably be pushing it a little too much.”