Paul Konerko took swings in the batting cage Saturday, and feels his back pain has improved to the point where he won't need to spend time on the disabled list.
Manager Robin Ventura's hope is Konerko will return to the White Sox lineup Tuesday as a designated hitter, and thinks he could use the team's captain as a pinch hitter on Saturday and Sunday against Cleveland.
"I don’t really see that happening," Konerko said when asked if he'd have to land on the disabled list. "The only way I could see that being an issue is if what I’m feeling now doesn’t go away or loosen up at all. Usually when you start doing stuff everyday it makes it way out [the discomfort]."
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The 37-year-old Konerko figured if he's able to swing a bat he could also play first base, although Ventura -- as has been the case all year -- will continue to take a measured approach as to when to put him in the field. With the halfway point of the season fast approaching, Konerko has only played 34 games at first base. He hasn't played fewer than 90 games in the field during a season since 1999, his first year with the White Sox.
"I think when guys have back pain, it's not one of those he's going to deal with all the time as far as pain," Ventura said. "But I think every player at some point, backs are not an easy thing to overcome. … It's one of those, you deal with it but I don't think it's something it's going to be a painful thing every time he steps on the field."
Konerko's 2013 numbers are well below his career averages -- a .253/.319/.373 slash line -- although he was hitting better before being knocked out of the lineup with a balky back. Since the start of June, Konerko has a much healthier .278/.350/.403 slash line, although his power (three doubles, two home runs) remains lacking.
CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes confirmed a report on Thursday that the last-place White Sox are open for business, but won't listen to offers on Konerko and starter Chris Sale. But if a contending team came along and wanted Konerko -- who's in the final season of a three-year, $45 million deal -- he wouldn't necessarily turn a trade down. He also wouldn't necessarily accept it, either, because it's a question he's not close to considering.
"I’m not going to get into that. I’m just trying to get back on the field," Konerko said. "I don’t know many teams that are going to want a guy who can’t play. Until I get back out there and start doing some things that’s off in the distance.
"My goal is to get this going here and try in the next three, four weeks until they have to make those decisions on everybody in here. Let’s see if we can get good and see what happens. I don’t have any answers right now."
Konerko understands the business aspect of the game in which he's played for 17 seasons. He doesn't expect the White Sox to start dealing his teammates away for another month, when the non-waiver trade deadline will only be a few days away. But the clock is ticking until July 31, especially for a last-place team that seems to find new ways to lose every series.
"I don’t want to say you don’t have any control over it, because as a team and as a player you do have control of playing well to make things better and maybe stop things from happening," Konerko explained. "… You go out on the field and do the best you can and that’s all you can really do."
"The guys upstairs, that’s what they get paid to do and make those decisions. You kind of have to throw your hands up at that kind of stuff. I think everybody in here -- whatever comes down the road, we have a handle."