February 2011

All things Konerko

Paul Konerko arrived at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday morning, when the full White Sox squad was scheduled to report. And as the elder statesman of the team, a player with good insight into all things baseball, the veteran of 12 years with the White Sox held court with the media for close to 14 minutes. Here’s a look at some of Konerko’s Spring Training commentary.

* On Alex Rios’ statement Monday labeling the White Sox as the team to beat in the American League Central:

“To me, you guys know me, the team to beat is the Twins.

Whoever wins the title from the year before is the champion until they get knocked off. What I think about what’s being said or what anybody thinks is irrelevant. We’ll get an answer 6½ months from now. That’s how it is. It’s pretty black and white.

I don’t know how that came up with Alex. Maybe he didn’t mean it like that or maybe he was trying to be confident. But that’s fine. I am too. But it’s pretty simple. You go out and play the games every day and at the end of September there will be a champion in this division. There’s no need to talk about it up until then.

But the Twins deserve the respect. They earned it last year and had a great year. Until someone knocks them off, they are the team.”

* On having played 15 years with the White Sox at the end of this current three-year deal:

“I try not to think about things like that. I’m trying to think about what’s in front of me. You start having thoughts about that kind of stuff and it can kind of slow you down a little bit as far as being hungry. I just can’t do that. There will be a time when I’m done playing when I can sit there and tell everyone about how long I played in one place and how great it was and this and that.

But I feel any time I do that now, I’m taking away from what I’m personally going to do and it’s kind of selfish to my teammates to talk about my own things even if it’s good. It is nice. I’m proud of it.

As much as the World Series, being in the same place for a long time is probably second on the list. It takes a relationship with the team and decisions have to be made on both sides and everyone has to want that to happen in today’s business because it’s so easy to go in the other direction so many times and for them to do the same. I’m proud in that sense. But there will be a time when I’m done playing to talk about the good old days.”

* On what it feels like to be back:

“It feels like I never left, because I didn’t. It was a lot of unknowns and uncertainty with myself and the team a year ago. Now that I’m here it feels like just another normal year and there have been a lot of them in a row here. It feels like home, but yeah, it got a little dicey in the offseason.”

* On the potential of the potent White Sox lineup:

“You break down lineups and you look for some speed, some power, balance. It’s all right there. The bottom of the lineup, whoever we put down there is pretty formidable. We look like we’re probably, in the middle of the lineup, kind of one guy deeper than a lot of teams.

Maybe whoever is going to hit sixth for us would probably hit fifth for a lot of teams. It’s all there but as you know it’s on paper and doesn’t mean anything until you go out and do it. I know that’s cliché but it’s true.

You have to go out and it all has to click together. We felt good about our lineup leaving here last year and we didn’t get it going so there is always work and an unknown about how things are going to transpire.

Last year the talk was that there was no big left-handed bat, there was no real DH. There was talk. This year there isn’t anything you can point a finger at and say we’re really deficient in that area so I guess that feels good.”

* On his White Sox tenure being over when the White Sox signed Adam Dunn:

“I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what that meant because I knew that at that moment I hadn’t talked to the White Sox at all and I thought that this is a business and you have relationships with people and you don’t know how it’s going to end.

You would figure that maybe they would talk to me before, at least to talk about what I’m looking for and if it’s possible to work out a deal. But sometimes when your card is pulled you find out the hard way.

So I didn’t know which one it was. I think that day or the next day they let us know they still wanted to work something out. I felt good about that. It didn’t mean something was going to get done but I felt like there was hope still to come back so that was good.”

More to come from Konerko in today’s Spring Training coverage at whitesox.com.

Be careful where you park

It’s four days into White Sox Spring Training, and Sergio Santos already has vowed revenge on Matt Thornton.

Not revenge, mind you, in a Tony Soprano or Michael Corleone sort of way. This is more about one-upsmanship through practical jokes between two friends and teammates.

Thornton took an early 1-0 lead in this Spring Training category between hard-throwing relievers courtesy of a Saturday morning maneuver. It seems as if Santos arrived slightly earlier than Thornton for workouts at Camelback Ranch and parked his white BMW along a fence close to the facility where veterans often park. Santos would be considered a veteran, beginning his second big league season, but with numerous other parking spots open, Thornton took it upon himself to find Santos’ car a new location.

“I moved his car as far out as I could,” said Thornton with a wry smile.

“After my workout and breakfast, I looked outside and my car was missing,” Santos continued, in comic disbelief. “Only one guy made a comment to me and that was Thornton.”

A little while later, Thornton was doing an interview when Santos approached the southpaw and simply asked “Where is it?” with a laugh. Thornton admitted no knowledge of the missing car. MLB.com is happy to report Santos eventually found his car at the farthest regions of the players’ parking lot.

Now, the wait begins for Santos’ counterstrike.

“He’s lucky there’s no way to get it in front of the doors to the clubhouse or I would have blocked the doors to the clubhouse with it,” said Thornton, clearly having fun with the execution of his joke.

“Of course, because I showed up early and some spots were open, I parked on the side anyway because it’s easier and quicker,” Santos said. “But there will be payback. I have to figure something good for him, but I guarantee there will be payback.”