Paul Konerko joked Tuesday he plans to root against Alexei Ramirez’s pursuit of his record the last two games of April.
All kidding aside, Konerko thinks Ramirez, who is one hit shy of tying Konerko’s club record for March/April (39), is in for a career year based off his hot start.
Through 27 games, Ramirez has a .358/.384/.557 slash line with four home runs and 19 RBIs. The shortstop’s .941 OPS is nearly 300 points higher than his career mark for March/April and that point isn’t lost on Konerko.
“There’s no telling what he can do this year if he’s off to the start he’s off to because it has always taken him a couple months to heat up and he’s already clicking,” Konerko said. “I see him pulling the ball. He always hits the ball hard when he pulls it. I see him keeping a lot of balls fair that sometimes he hooks. So there’s something there with his swing that’s better that’s keeping those balls true and in play.”
But it’s not just the swing that has Ramirez out to the best start of his career.
The shortstop, who has an aggressive approach at the plate, has taken advantage of how hitters in the lineup ahead of him have tired pitchers out and jumped on early fastballs. He’s hitting the ball with authority to center field and right-center as well as pulling it.
“It’s also a byproduct of our lineup, you can’t pay attention to one guy,” Konerko said. “Anyone of ‘em can kind of get you and has gotten you already. When that’s the case you’ve got different guys on different nights sprinkling hits and it’s good for everybody because they can’t really key on one guy. Alexei’s always aggressive so if you think you’re just going to throw a first-pitch fastball in there he’s going to hit it. It’s good to see. I don’t want to tell him, but he’s going to get 200 hits this year. I don’t know if he’s ever done that.”
Konerko had a similar start to the 2002 season when he established the record.
In 26 games that month, Konerko had a .371/.387/.562 slash line with four homers and 28 RBIs. But Konerko’s success extended through the first half as he had 20 homers and 71 RBIs at the All-Star break.
A stress fracture in his foot was the only thing to slow Konerko down that season -- and he ended up with 104 RBIs.
“I remember the whole first half everything just felt right,” Konerko said. “I drove in a lot of runs and I had a lot of good games. Even my bad games produced some good things. It just kind of fell right for me. I still picked up some hits (in the second half) but I couldn’t drive the ball as well. But I still could swing it a little, just not as good.”
Konerko has played alongside Ramirez for seven seasons now. Seeing the way he has performed and the part he has played in the rest of the offense, Konerko isn’t shy about his predictions for Ramirez.
“This could be his best year yet with the start he’s had,” Konerko said.