Paul Konerko returned to the White Sox for one final season with the idea he wouldn't play much as a sort of player/coach primarily used against left-handers. While former teammate and current Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski knew of the plan, he said it's still "strange," "weird" and "odd" to see Konerko have just eight at-bats so far this season.
"Normally right now he would have 30 or 40 at-bats and a couple of homers and a bunch of RBIs and no stolen bases," Pierzynski said prior to Tuesday's White Sox-Red Sox game. "Paul knew what he was getting himself into coming in. We talked this offseason a bunch of times about what he should do and I told him absolutely he should come back. He deserves to come back, not only for himself but to enjoy one year. If they aren’t going to give him the opportunity to play, then heck, he can enjoy it a little bit more. It’s a lot more relaxing if he knows he’s not playing everyday."
Konerko still holds an important role on the White Sox, offering advice to the team's youthful core and spelling Adam Dunn against tough left-handers. But the White Sox have only faced one left-handed starter so far this year (Kansas City's Bruce Chen), meaning Konerko has just one start through the season's first two weeks. Expect to see him in the White Sox starting lineup Thursday against left-handed Red Sox ace Jon Lester, but outside of the occasional start he'll continue to be limited to mostly pinch-hitting duties.
Though Konerko has just one hit in five pinch-hit at-bats this year, Pierzynski is confident it's a role well-suited for Konerko both physically and mentally.
"I know he’s a good pinch-hitter," Pierzynski said. "He’s always had success in that role. I’m sure they are using him effectively. I know Paul wanted to go out on his terms and after this year, he’ll be able to do that."