GLENDALE, Ariz. — Even though it's spring training where everyone is relaxed and jovial, Paul Konerko detects a different attitude in the clubhouse.
Less than six months removed from the gloomy state of the fourth-worst season in White Sox history, Konerko feels like the club is starting fresh. Konerko said a combination of Rick Hahn’s roster overhaul along with several changes among veteran players leaves this White Sox group far removed from last year’s team.
With two weeks left, that alteration in the outlook has the White Sox upbeat — more so than normal.
“It does really feel like a complete break from last year’s team,” Konerko said. “I don’t feel like anybody’s carrying baggage. The guys that were here have different things going on…If you were here, you’ve kind of got a new outlook on some things and the other guys have no idea what happened anyways.”
The shift began last July when the White Sox made the first of several significant moves with the acquisition of Avisail Garcia and continued in the offseason with the additions of Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson. As of Monday, the team’s 40-man roster features nine players added in the offseason, many of whom are young and have no concept of the misery that took place at 35th and Shields last season.
Konkero pointed to John Danks, who is now 18 months removed from shoulder surgery and is more hopeful than he ever seemed to be in 2013. Konerko has the certainty of knowing 2014 will be the final season of his career. Alexei Ramirez is a year removed from the death of his father-in-law and Jeff Keppinger’s family issues have been settled.
Danks said the White Sox feel more like a team coming off a playoff run than one that spent three months planning hunting trips and vacations.
“Just the energy day in, day out, guys excited to be there,” Danks said. “Not that we weren’t trying to win or weren’t trying hard last year. But once it kind of piles on, it's hard to get excited and up for games. It’s a fresh start. Guys are excited.”
Konerko doesn’t want to blow this out of proportion.
It’s his 20th spring training.
He knows that upbeat attitudes prevail in Arizona because most everyone is healthy and each team’s record is 0-0. But with that caveat, the team’s captain likes the attitude he has deciphered in the clubhouse.
“It doesn’t feel like a connection to last year, so that’s good,” Konerko said.