The end may be approaching, but Konerko's career keeps ticking

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The end may be approaching, but Konerko's career keeps ticking

Paul Konerko isn't afraid to tell it like it is. There's little gray area in his words. What he sees, is what you get, which over the course of his career could fill a library of reporter notebooks.

The White Sox captain arrived at Sox Fest knowing that this could be his last as a player. It may not be the focus of his attention, but in the back of his mind, its there.

He knows the end is near.

When will the retire? Hes not sure yet. But with another year added to the back of his baseball card -- his 16th in the majors -- he says hes prepared to say good-bye.

"A couple years ago, I sat right here and I was ready for that to be the last year," Konerko told CSNChicago.com at the Palmer House Hilton, the site of Sox Fest.

He says he loved the approach of the 2012 White Sox.

"The concentration on the small things last year was as good as any team I've ever been on."

As for him, he admits that his hitting was a season-long struggle.

"I was lucky to do anything I did -- all year."

This is coming from a man who could possess a PhD in hitting. He's Dr. Konerko with a bat instead of a stethoscope. You can also call him Professor Konerko, the academic king of hitting. However, if you asked him to grade his performance from last season, he might give himself a D. Possibly even an F.

"I never felt that good from the get-go, so it was kind of one of those years where it was smoke and mirrors for most of it," Konerko admits. "Looking back on it, I feel like it could have been a disaster if I didn't grind through it probably as much as I can. I just didn't feel like I had it. You have years like that."

Konerko ended the season batting .298 with 26 HRs and 75 RBIs. Not great, but also not good for someone like Konerko, especially considering his red-hot start.

On May 27, he was leading the majors with a .399 batting average. He also had 11 HRs and 33 RBIs. Reporters started asking him about the chances of actually finishing the season batting .400.

But Konerko knew something that we didnt.

"Sometimes balls are falling for you. Things happen and the numbers say you're doing well and you just don't feel good. That happens too," he explains. "I'd say that's more of what was going on during the beginning of the season. I could tell by the way I was hitting. I could just tell."

So now we are left to ask the question: Was 2012 just a fluke year or was it the start of the final downward trend of Konerko's career?

"That's a good question. If I was listening to the interview, I'd say, well, that's called a trend of what's happening," Konerko says. "I understand that. That comes with the territory. I can't think like that."

Instead, Konerko, who turns 37 on March 5, can only think about the upcoming season. Nothing more, nothing less. Where's it all going? He doesn't have the answer. But he remembers how he felt after the 2009 season, another trying year at the plate when he thought about retirement for the first time.

"I wasn't that young then. It was a similar year where I felt okay but the game felt really hard to play all year. Then you come back for a couple years after that and feel like it's very easy to play, so you never really know where it's going to turn."

Here's what Konerko does know:

"I'm still good at this. This is what I do, and I still want to do it. That's another thing. Just because you can't do it anymore, doesn't mean that you don't want to play anymore. I think people should know that. Don't look at the numbers, that if things are going well in 2013, that necessarily means I would play after this season. And the reverse of that is true, too.

It has to start with you having a passion to get ready in the off-season. That commitment from early November all the way until spring training. If it was just playing a six-month season, guys would probably play longer if they could, because that's the fun part. Getting ready for a whole season is a huge commitment. If you say you're going to do it, you can't shortchange that."

Paul has seen many of his teammates from the 2005 World Series squad retire. Three of them -- Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede and Aaron Rowand -- were there at Sox Fest.

Dye says you just know deep down when its time to leave.

Konerko believes hell know too, but hes not there yet. Theres more baseball to be played. Still, he cant help but think about the next chapter in his life, whenever that day comes.

"It's tough not to," Konerko says. "This time in your career there can be some heavy thoughts about that kind of stuff, but at the end of the day my job is no different than it was 10 years ago. That's to go out and do well for the 2013 Chicago White Sox. That is the goal. That's what I'm going to do. If I do that, the other stuff will sort itself out. Whether it's the game and the team sorting me out, or me sorting the rest of it out. Who knows? I have no idea how that's going to go."

Baseball doesn't have a clock. Careers do.

But for now, Konerko is still ticking.

Energetic Brett Lawrie powers White Sox to win over Orioles

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Energetic Brett Lawrie powers White Sox to win over Orioles

BALTIMORE — When it comes to energy, Brett Lawrie always has plenty extra left in the tank.

The second baseman’s lively spirit came in handy on Sunday afternoon for a club that played its 19th game in 19 days.

The White Sox tapped into Lawrie’s fuel cell early and took off as they backed Chris Sale in a 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles in front of 28,803 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Lawrie homered in a third straight game and reached base five times for the White Sox, who knocked Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez out with a five-run, fifth-inning rally. With the effort, the White Sox completed their grueling stretch with a 13-6 mark.

“I’m just being myself, coming here every day with a good, positive attitude, putting music on, getting the boys rolling and having fun,” Lawrie said. “We’re here too much to go through it like it’s a suit-and-tie job.”

Through 26 games, the White Sox have rarely resembled a team that looks as if it’s going through the motions. A bundle of energy who was acquired from the Oakland A’s in December, Lawrie deserves plenty of credit for the team’s never-quit approach.

Whether he’s playing team DJ, attempting trick shots with a soccer ball or keeping the dugout lively, Lawrie has delivered his energy in a variety of ways.

“It’s daily,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “What you see is what you get. It’s full throttle all the way. He’s just been a good influence over here.

“He’s prepared and ready to go every day and enjoys playing.”

Lawrie’s bat jumpstarted the offense again on Sunday with a fourth-inning homer off Jimenez two innings after the White Sox didn’t score with the bases loaded and no outs.

With two outs and no score, Lawrie ripped 1-2 fastball from Jimenez 404 feet to center field for his fourth home run. He has now homered in three straight games for the first time in his career after hitting solo shots on Friday and Saturday.

Suddenly, the White Sox came to life, and the group dinked and dunked Jimenez to death in the fifth inning.

Carlos Sanchez had an RBI groundout with the bases loaded and no outs, and Jose Abreu singled in another to make it 3-0. Melky Cabrera singled in a run with a bloop single, and Jerry Sands parachuted a two-run single into center to knock out Jimenez.

Lawrie walked twice, singled and doubled and reached base in 12 of 31 plate appearances on the road trip.

“He’s kind of a spark, really,” Sale said. “He got it going for us today. Ubaldo is a tough guy, he’s a tough pitcher out there and he was cruising, and a 1-2 count, a homer dead center. The ball really wasn’t flying today either. He’s the guy who gets it started, he’s the guy who keeps the energy going, and hopefully we can maintain that throughout the whole year.”

The White Sox would love for their offense to produce as consistently as it did on the road trip.

The White Sox, who averaged 3.2 runs over their first 19 games, scored at least four runs in five of seven games and averaged 5.86 per contest during that span.

A day after he twice singled in runs, Abreu singled twice more and drew a first-inning walk. He finished the road trip 11-for-29 with six RBIs and four walks.

The outpouring made a laborious day easier for Sale, who needed 107 pitches to complete five innings. Baltimore’s loaded lineup ran a bunch of deep counts against Sale but didn’t accomplish much else.

He stranded at least one runner in each of his first five frames and two each in the first, third and fifth innings. His biggest escape came in the fifth inning, when Sale walked two with one out, including a 12-pitch free pass to Manny Machado. But Sale struck out Mark Trumbo and induced a fly ball out from Adam Jones.

Sale (6-0) struck out six as he allowed a run, six hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings.

“You see how many guys they left on base, and it just seemed like he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been. But even then, he didn’t give up anything,” Ventura said.

Now the team is headed home for its first day of relaxation since April 12.

Lawrie is pleased with the team’s effort over the span, which included a dozen road games, and is ready to deliver more energy against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.

“It’s a long stretch, especially when you only have one off day in the month,” Lawrie said. “It calls for a full-group effort, and when you can do that, it’s a good opportunity for the boys to come out every single day and give it our all.”

White Sox: Players confused about new slide rule after Saturday's controversial call

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White Sox: Players confused about new slide rule after Saturday's controversial call

BALTIMORE — Eighteen hours after it occurred, everyone still seems pretty confused about how baseball intends to interpret new slide rule 6.01 (j).

That was the consensus on Sunday morning from both the White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles as manager Robin Ventura was ejected in Saturday night’s contest after his challenge of Manny Machado’s “illegal slide” on a double play that should have resulted in a triple play wasn’t overturned.

The White Sox didn’t receive a third out for interference in the third inning even though Machado slid beyond the bag, grabbed Brett Lawrie’s leg in the process and then reached back to touch the base.

The White Sox believe they didn’t get the call — one Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Saturday he wouldn’t have had an argument against — because Lawrie never attempted to throw to first base for fear he would throw the ball away. The play was similar to one in an April 5 Toronto-Tampa Bay contest that resulted in the end when Jose Bautista’s slide into second base was ruled as interference.

“I don’t know if I’m more or less clear,” shortstop Tyler Saladino said. “After seeing that play, I guess it doesn’t matter how you slide just as long as the guy doesn’t throw the ball. But if you’re on defense, just do an auto-throw over there because that’s what they say.”

Lawrie said he never thought to make the throw to first base to throw out Adam Jones because he felt Machado made contact. Showalter acknowledged Saturday that his All-Star third baseman got “over-aggressive” on the slide. Neither side believes Machado intended to harm Lawrie with his slide. But once he was touched, Lawrie was worried he might throw the ball away, which would allow Jones to advance into scoring position.

“It’s just how the game is going,” Lawrie said. “You put the rule in place, you have just got to follow through with stuff like that. I just think right now there’s such a gray area because there was a lot of trouble that went down after that Tampa game and I think they got a lot of heat because it changed the whole game and the game ended like that. I feel like it’s just a gray area whether they call it or they don’t. It’s just really up to whoever is on the other side of the headphones.”

Showalter admitted after Saturday’s game he was surprised by the outcome even though his team benefitted. Were he in Ventura’s shoes, Showalter would also have asked for the play to be reviewed. He expected crew chief Gerry Davis to emerge from the six-minute-plus delay and inform him Jones was out at first for interference, which would have resulted in the second unorthodox triple play of the month for the White Sox.

“Where we got fortunate is they didn’t attempt to turn the ball over to first base and didn’t feel like it impacted the play, I guess,” Showalter told reporters. “We’re going to look for an explanation, too, because we would have challenged that, too. When I first saw it, I didn’t think we’d have much argument. It’s a little bit of a, I don’t want to say ‘flaw,’ but there’s been some gray area in a lot of people’s minds. But the way to combat it is to not do what we did.”

The White Sox expect the rule will be modified as it goes along. Major League Baseball previously made changes to rules regarding how catchers block the plate and what constitutes a catch after the transfer process was heavily scrutinized via instant replay.

“Every rule we’ve had has done that,” Ventura said. “We’ve always had some unique plays that happen that end up changing if they look at it further. It makes sense that would go along those lines.”

But as Saladino said, the White Sox lost their manager — Ventura’s ejection was the 12th of his career — and what could have been a critical challenge in the process. He and his teammates just want clarity and they’d like it as soon as possible.

“We’re just looking to follow the rules,” Saladino said. “You make a new rule, we’re supposed to follow it. You can’t just keep doing it, that’s the whole adjustment period. We’re trying to make our adjustments to the rules. It’s a new deal. So we just have to finish the play? They could slide however, but if we don’t finish the play, it doesn’t matter how they slide.”

Reinstated closer David Robertson: 'Weirdest thing' to watch White Sox on TV

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Reinstated closer David Robertson: 'Weirdest thing' to watch White Sox on TV

BALTIMORE — David Robertson kept an eye on the White Sox from Alabama by watching games on TV.

The closer, who has been reinstated for Sunday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles, prefers his normal view from the bullpen. Robertson is available for duty after he returned to the club Sunday morning. He missed the previous three games to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, who passed away Monday after a nine-month battle with cancer. The White Sox optioned Tommy Kahnle to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for Robertson.

“I tried to keep up with the games,” Robertson said. “Watched (Saturday’s) game, which is the weirdest thing I think I’ve ever done. Watching a full game, seeing everyone come in. Was yelling at the TV. It’s harder watching a game on TV than it is being here in person to watch it. I was glad, it was a great win for the guys.”

Robertson — who has eight saves, a 0.87 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings — stayed with the White Sox through Wednesday. He pitched twice in the series in Toronto, posting two scoreless innings before flying home for services on Thursday and Friday.

“I was fine in Toronto,” Robertson said. “Emotions hit me when we got there. He not only was my wife’s dad, he was one of my good friends. We hung out nonstop. He lived with us all offseason. He’s a good man. He was taken too early.”