White Sox: As role shifts, Konerko not eyeing milestones

White Sox: As role shifts, Konerko not eyeing milestones
January 24, 2014, 7:45 pm
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Paul Konerko's personal goals for 2014 are a little more abstract than they've been in the past. That is to say, the longtime White Sox first baseman won't always be able to point to RBIs or home runs as a measure of success.

Konerko returned to the White Sox on a one-year deal with the expectation he'll still play, though in a far more limited fashion than in his prior 15 years with the team. With Jose Abreu and Adam Dunn penciled in as Robin Ventura's regular first base/designated hitter combo, Konerko's job will take on a greater mentoring aspect this summer.

"There's going to be a lot of days this year where I don't play, or I play and don't do good that day, and the end results of the numbers might not be anything even close to what I've done since the playing time will be less," Konerko said. "But I know a lot of those days where I don't even play I can go home saying, 'that's a great day,' because of what I know I did. That's totally different than in years past where when you're that four-hole hitter, you have to carry the team at times, you have to drive in runs, you have to be the guy.

"If you do the other things, great, but you know everything is hinging on you producing and putting up numbers. It's different now. I still want to do well, don't get me wrong; I want to help the team win."

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Where Konerko and the White Sox feel he can make that impact is as a player/coach of sorts, the kind of guy who can give Dunn a break from tougher left-handed pitching while lending advice to some of the team's young core on his off days. After a season in which he turned in a .669 OPS -- his lowest mark since his rookie season in 1998 -- the options to be an everyday player weren't there, and Konerko said earlier this offseason he probably didn't want that role anyways.

So even if Konerko doesn't add a whole lot to the 434 home runs he's already hit, he's taking a role he's well suited for.

"Inside our clubhouse he’s the guy that has the most respect. It’s big to have him come back," manager Robin Ventura said. "Being more of a mentor than he’s been able to do in the past, I think he’s going to have that ability. Sometimes it’s harder to have the energy to be able to do that when you’re an everyday player. He will be playing but he’ll have probably more energy to spend towards other guys."