KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This new role, and how he’ll stay sharp mentally every day while he sparingly plays, is all still pretty new to Paul Konerko.
But the White Sox slugger, who makes his first start of 2014 on Saturday, does have a solid grasp of how to prepare for the games he doesn’t start.
Whether it has been conversations with former teammates Jim Thome and Mark Kotsay or White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing, Konerko has received plenty of advice for how to prepare for late-inning, pinch-hit at-bats.
Asked for the best information he’s elicited, Konerko said it revolves around the timing of when he heads to the weight room or the batting cage for flips.
“When you’re not playing, about when you get loose, how to peak at the right time for when you have to pinch hit so you’re not totally loose in the fifth or sixth inning when you’re two or three innings away from hitting,” Konerko said. “Just that whole routine is stuff other guys have helped me with.”
One aspect all the advice can’t aid Konerko with at this point is how to stay sharp for the times he does start. With this, the team’s fifth game, Konerko hasn’t had the chance to try anything out yet. But White Sox manager Robin Ventura wouldn’t put anything past what Konerko can offer.
“He’s swinging pretty good,” Ventura said. “You get to this point in your career, and sometimes it can be a benefit to just have short spurts of being able to go out and find it and have a good day and not have to do it six days in a row. You get to take your shots at it in limited times.”
Konerko said he wouldn’t have a proper answer for how to stay sharp mentally until he gets a little further into the season, more accustomed to his role. But Konerko is able to look ahead at the schedule and determine when he might play based on pitching matchups. That allows him to at least prepare for the physical aspect of his potential starts.
“You kind of have an idea when you might play so you kind, when it comes to your stuff in the weight room or your flips in the cage and all that, you can kind of plan it the right way, have a little more control over that,” Konerko said.