Paul Konerko may have hit his last home run as a member of the White Sox on Thursday night.
The veteran first baseman blasted a solo homer, the 434th of his career, as the White Sox lost 3-2 to the Kansas City Royals at U.S. Cellular Field. The White Sox fell for the 21st time in 27 games and still need one more win in their final three games to avoid 100 losses. Konerko and Adam Dunn both hit solo homers, but it wasn’t enough for the White Sox to avoid their 36th loss in 59 one-run games this season.
A free agent at the season’s end, Konerko plans to address the media on Friday afternoon, though he’s not expected to make any decisions about 2014 until after the season concludes.
“He probably plans on hitting one every day the rest of the way,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said with a smile. “You don’t know. But I think any time players kind of go through this situation, I’m sure there are some weird thoughts of the last time for anything.”
Konerko, 37, has contended all along he would wait until after the season concluded to make a decision about his future because of the many factors involved. Speculation has run rampant all season whether or not Konerko wants to play again and if he’d have a spot on the South Side if he determines he does. Several media reports have friends of Konerko suggesting he definitely wants to play again next season while others have wondered if the back trouble he experienced in July has worn him down. True to his word, Konerko has continually stated now isn’t the time to make a decision.
On Wednesday Konerko said he planned to speak to the media during the team’s final homestand, but isn’t sure what he will and won’t answer.
While questions loom about Konerko’s future he has continued to answer one about whether or not he can still be a productive player. His second-inning home run off Jeremy Guthrie, a 415-foot drive to left, is his third over the last month. In his past 26 games, Konerko is hitting .295 with three homers and 12 RBIs.
He carried a .297/.373/.396 line into the game over his last 102 plate appearances, which would indicate he has been better than his full season totals. Konerko -- who is now 21 homers shy of tying Frank Thomas’ franchise mark of 448 -- has career lows this season with 12 homers and 54 RBIs.
Though Konerko might not be capable of hitting 30 home runs as he has seven times in his career, Ventura believes he can be a productive hitter.
“He’s had times where he hasn’t felt as good as other times,” Ventura said. “Again, when he goes up there he has a good plan. He can still take it the other way. He’s a tough at-bat.”
While he has felt better, Konerko said he still has room for improvement. He continues to grind out at-bats, but Konerko said he hasn’t been able to get “over the hump” in enough situations and turn a 1-for-4 into a 2-for-4. As for the reduction in homers, Konerko said he has hit the ball just as hard this season, just not at the proper trajectory.
“It’s just path, it’s the technique of it all and that’s where it is for me,” Konerko said. “That one tonight, I attacked that one the right way to put it in the air and getting it going --- I just haven’t done that a lot this year.”
But where Konerko figures in the team’s plans remains to be seen. The White Sox are expected to continue the overhaul they began this summer with their trades of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy and an offense that has disappointed could be the primary target.
Whereas the White Sox finished fourth in the American League in runs scored last season, they rank 29th in the majors this season. The team is on pace to score its fewest runs in a full season since 1980.
Aside from the homer by Konerko and a mammoth blast by Dunn, a 442-foot game-tying shot in the sixth, the offense was largely silent again. Much of that credit does belong to Guthrie, who improved to 15-12 as he limited the White Sox to two runs and four hits over seven innings. Guthrie is 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in his past four starts at U.S. Cellular Field.