GLENDALE, Ariz. — While some fans wonder why Paul Konerko has returned for the 2014 season, there are no such questions within the White Sox clubhouse.
Players, coaches and front office members continue to embrace the captain’s return with open arms. Konerko, who has already reported but isn’t required to be here until Thursday, is expected to play in a limited role with just as much importance being assigned to his off-the-field duties. His teammates have no doubt Konerko’s influence can play a significant role in the clubhouse even if his playing time is drastically reduced.
“I hear some other people saying that can’t be that important,” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “Stuff like that is important. That is big for a team, especially with the young guys we have and the younger group we have overall. Having a guy like (Konerko) is going to be huge for everybody. Whether you’re swinging bad or doing terrible and getting down on yourself, a guy like that can be a real good influence.”
Chris Sale said Konerko affects everyone — not just position players — because he’s approachable. Konerko admits he lost some of that ability the past two seasons because he spent so much time in the training room preparing for games. Now that he’s a part-timer, Konerko has said he expects he’ll have more time to work on issues within the clubhouse and just be there for general counsel.
“He’s always there whether it’s questions, whether it’s talking,” Sale said. “Whatever it is you have for him, he’s there for anybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, what position you play or where you’re from, he’s helping you out in any way he can. That’s what a leader does, and that’s who he is.”
The White Sox are more than happy to have their leader for one more go-around. Pitcher John Danks said he doesn’t plan to take it for granted, either. Konerko re-signed a one-year deal with the club in December for $2.5 million.
“Paul is the captain,” Danks said. “It’s going to be a lot different when he’s not around. Enjoying as much time as we can having him around and hopefully he goes out with a bang.”