Results tagged ‘ Paul Konerko ’
Since the end of Spring Training, Paul Konerko steadfastly has avoided talking about his future. His preference is and always has been to focus on baseball and address the personal stuff at the end of the season or in the postseason.
But on Friday afternoon, the consummate White Sox leader spoke for 23 minutes about his future with just two games left in this forgettable season. Aside from wanting to stay with the White Sox, being willing to play a part-time role only with the White Sox and most likely retiring after 2014, Konerko wasn’t able to provide any definitive assessment for the immediate future.
He came up with great analysis on the matter, as he has been doing for the past 15 years. Here’s many more of his quotes that didn’t make it into the story at MLB.com.
ON NOT AUTOMATICALLY ASSUMING HE’LL HAVE AN OPTION TO COME BACK
“I’m going to answer questions here but I just want to say it’s all under the premise that there’s a choice and an option that they want me back, that it’s all on the basis and set to the backdrop that there’s a choice here.
“I don’t know that. I haven’t talked to the White Sox formally, we haven’t spoken about anything. Under normal circumstances I hate to answer questions and speculate on things I don’t even know are questions yet.
“But I want everyone to know that I’m not sitting here knowing … everything could be made up for me. I don’t know what my choices are. I don’t know what my options are. I know none of that, so speculating on it seems kind of weird to me, but I understand the timing of these things, so I’m going to answer questions set to that there is that choice.
“A lot of players you guys deal with have that sense of entitlement that they’re always going to have that. That’s not the way I go.”
ON HANDLING ANOTHER YEAR PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY
“You never totally know. I can’t say yes. I feel like there are some things that you go through during a season that are kind of isolated things that you feel like, ‘OK, well that will never bother me again.’ There are other things that you just know, ‘Hey, that’s never going away. That’s going to hang around. Can I get through with it?’ But it’s one of those I’ll have to (consider) over the next month or so.
“Again it’s not just the playing of the games. It’s the travel. It’s the Spring Training. It’s the offseason. It’s all that stuff. You have to be able to absorb all of that work. I go back and forth on that kind of stuff because I’ve done this for almost 20 years professionally.
“You always can do a little more than you think, but it is a commitment, and at least for me, you want to be able to go out there. It’s one thing if you’re a utility infielder that’s kind of lost the ability to swing the bat (from) when you were a starting player, but you’re still defensively good or this or that, you can kind of get through easier. It’s not as big of a deal. Someone like me, I need to go out there and swing the bat every day, and to have to be able to do that, you have to think about those things.”
ON WHETHER PHYSICAL OR MENTAL PART PLAYS MORE INTO THE DECISION
“Physical is a bigger chunk of it. Mentally I think you can always rebound. This isn’t the first season I’ve had that’s been rough. There have been other ones. Part of that, the older you get, you can kind of let it go quicker and know that I could turn.
“I remember when I was younger, 10 years ago, I had a rough one, and really just thought it was the end of my career. I didn’t know how I was going to respond to that. I think you get better at that. You do get beat up more every year mentally, but I think ultimately, you get a little better at it. But physically, that’s the thing you have to know. It’s not just the season.
“If you could snap your fingers and know it was next Opening Day, and just knew you had the season, that’s tough. The seasons are tough, but when you talk about the offseason and Spring Training, those are big things, big things that you have to want to do. The season doesn’t start on April 1. It doesn’t start on Feb. 15. For me, it starts on Nov. 10, Nov. 15, somewhere right around then. So you have to know you’re willing to go from right then all the way until now. That’s a long year. So physically you have to know if you’re up for it.
ON PREFERRING TO FINISH AS A WHITE SOX PLAYER
“I don’t think there’s any doubt of that. I don’t know the options that are going to be made available to me, but I think that’s always been my goal. Certainly when I signed back here after ’05, I felt like that was it, and then after 2010, that just kind of locked it in. That’s definitely what I envision.
ON THE DECISION WEIGHING ON HIM THIS YEAR
“There are so many layers to the season that are bad, unfortunately. This is really the only season when you think about it, for me anyway, every season I’ve played before this, and when I say every season I mean since I was like seven, that I knew I would play the next year. I feel like if I do play, the one thing I can give you of any substance today probably would be that if I do play next year, that will probably be it.
“So that’s really what it boils down to. I would know the answer to that. This is the only one that would wind up being that I didn’t know the answer the whole way, and I don’t know if I handled that well, don’t know if I liked it. It’s not just the game. It’s not just the playing. When your whole entire year, everywhere you go, whether it’s to this city or that, there are so many relationships with people.
“Am I going to see this person again? Am I going to be back here? All of those little things that you guys can probably imagine, but there’s even more of them. (I was) in between on all of those, and I didn’t like that. Looking back on it, that was probably, I don’t want to say a mistake, but I don’t know if I was sure enough in Spring Training or before to say one way or the other, and maybe I should have figured things out more to say, ‘Listen, I plan on definitely playing beyond this year,’ or ‘This is it.’ It probably would have been a better year personally for me either way.
“But again that still doesn’t get around the fact that what’s happened with the rest of it. Some of this stuff, there’s a lot in your control, but there’s a lot out of your control. And this has just been a real rough year for everybody. I don’t know any guy on our team right now that hasn’t been eaten up by this team and what’s gone on here for three weeks or a month at one point during the season. It’s been a struggle. It’s been rough, and that can happen to anybody at any age.
ON ROUGH SEASON PLAYING INTO HIS DECISION
“It’s maybe the hugest thing. You only get to go through these kinds of things once, a career once, so you try to rely on advice from other people. You try to talk to the people who have been through it. The majority of them are always, ‘If you can play, play. Do it the way you want to do it. Go back to the drawing board. Go get ‘em.’ And I get all of that.
“The other side of it is, this is how careers are supposed to end. Not everybody gets to do it exactly how they want to do it. It’s supposed to kind of be not the best because that’s what closes you out. When you say, ‘OK, I’ve had enough of that, and they’ve had enough of me.’ So I can see it both directions. I can tell you more of me is the first one. And the advice I get is more the first scenario, but that doesn’t mean it’s right either. Going back to what I said, when that choice is put in front of me, if it is, that’s probably when I’ll have to think harder about it. We’re kind of talking now like it is.”
ON COMING BACK AS A PART-TIME PLAYER
“The only thing I can say on that would be the only place I could do that would be here because my family likes it here, my kids love it here, it’s a great place to be in the summer. I’ve been here. If I do come back in any capacity, even if I come back as, again, I don’t know the choices and all that, I think it’s going to be looked on, more importantly by myself, is that, I’m always holding myself to the standard that I’ve set, as far as the production I’ve had and what I’ve done.
“Other people are going to hold me to that, and I get that, but it’s probably not fair to myself to do that as much, and I’m going to have to come to grips that if I do play, I’ve got to kind of relax on that a little bit and know if I come back here, production can be done in a lot of different ways. It’s not always just driving in runs and hitting home runs.
“I’ve got to be better, if I’m going to come back, at working with the young guys and be better to them and be not so much consumed like I was 10 years ago. I’ve just been so, my head’s down and I just do what I do and I’m probably going to have to make adjustments on that kind of stuff to enjoy if I do come back. I think I could do it but I would definitely have to change some of my ways of the way I do things.”
ON PART-TIME VETERAN LEADERS BEING VALUABLE
“If I could allow it anywhere, it would be. Like what you said about going out the right way, if I did come back it’s not about that means I come back and I want to drive in 100 runs and I want to make an All-Star team. It’s not like that. It’s more just the vibe of how you want to feel when you go. And if that meant the plan from the beginning of the year was this, and Plan A, and you succeeded in that plan, that means that’s going out right.
“The guys you mentioned (Mark Kotsay, Jason Giambi), the role has to exist. I don’t know the roster, the way that’s going to shape up. That’s on Rick (Hahn) and all that. I’m very conscious of, I feel like I’ve always, since I’ve been a little kid, earned my way on to the playing field. No one did a favor for me. I always feel like I earned my way on. I’m not quite sure I can say that right now for next year. So that’s a problem with me, that’s a concern with me. The argument can be made that, well, OK, everything you’ve done up until now, regardless of this year, you have earned that.
“I don’t know the answer to that, but it definitely crosses my mind because I don’t want to put anybody in a tough spot that for other reasons that’s why I’m back here. If I’m back here, I want it to actually make sense. Assuming that I come to that conclusion that I want to play, that has to make sense for the other side because the White Sox have always been honest with me and treated me well. I’m not looking to power play somebody into a job. That’s just not who I am.”
ON FAMILY BEING A MAJOR PART OF HIS DECISION
“That’s another thing about next year. I’m going to have to look at going back to what I said, I’ve kind of always done things the same way. If I do play, I have to change the way like when I travel, I have to have the family come more with me to lessen the time away. Sometimes it’s tough with the school situations but that’s something that maybe the year or two I’ve dropped the ball on. I could have been a little bit more ahead because as your kids get older, you are missing stuff. But it wasn’t the way I do things. I’m going to have to be a little different. I’m going to have make adjustments how the way I do things because I’m a little set in my ways.
“That will be something I’ll have to address if I do play again. I have to go less time without seeing my kids, wife, all that kind of stuff.”
ON TEAM’S MISERABLE YEAR
“You know it’s possible in a sense that you see other organizations that turned. The Red Sox last year lost 90-something games. So, I’m sure that wasn’t what they had in mind. You know there are a lot of good teams now. So if you don’t get off right and these guys don’t play right or this guy gets hurt, anything is in play. I’m happy that in my 15 years it’s really the only one that was like this.
“The ’07 year I just don’t count along these lines because there were so many injuries it wasn’t even the real team that was playing most of that year. This year wasn’t quite, I can’t say that. We had our team a lot of the time and we just were bad.
“But I’m pretty lucky. 15 years in one spot. We had teams, I’ve been to the playoffs three times, which isn’t a ton. But we’ve had, you are into September every year being in it at least, maybe into the last week. That’s what you are looking for. There’s no guarantees you are ever going to make it to the playoffs. It’s always been pretty competitive.
“Definitely shocked. It was pretty much the same group of guys as last year. So I don’t think anybody saw this coming. I know there are a lot of people who thought we overachieved last year, but I don’t think they would have even said it was going to go this bad this year.”
CHICAGO – Here’s a guess as to how Wednesday’s Cubs-White Sox game at Wrigley Field would play out in the world of Paul Konerko.
The White Sox take a 1-0 or 2-0 victory behind John Danks and, more importantly, the final time of the game checks in somewhere just over two hours. The time constraint is important for Konerko, as he has tickets to Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinal between the Blackhawks and Red Wings with a 7 p.m. CT puck drop at the United Center.
Baseball is Konerko’s profession, one where he has reached great heights over close to the past two decades. He’s as accomplished a student of the game as there probably is playing today.
Hockey, though, stands as a passion for the White Sox captain, a sport he played back when he was growing up in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“I still go down and skate when I can, as far as the team doesn’t know that. Every now and then I get out there,” said a smiling Konerko, who played until he was 15 or 16 and played both center and right wing. “I have a couple of buddies who coach younger kids back home. I’ll get out there with them some times in the offseason.”
Konerko calls going to Game 7 kind of a dream, having gone to a playoff game a couple of years ago, but he was up in a luxury box. He just hopes the pace of Wednesday’s Crosstown matchup doesn’t slow down his trip to the United Center.
“Hopefully we don’t do anything stupid like have an extra inning game or any rain delays tomorrow. Let’s keep our fingers crossed there,” said a once again smiling Konerko, who admitted he will be in full fan mode Wednesday night. “Just the way our seasons work out, you never really get a chance for that to happen.
“I’ll definitely take it in. I watch a lot of hockey, I watch tons of games in the offseason. I watch everything I can during the season. It’s something I’ve always been into. So, yeah, I’m looking forward to, I don’t know what to expect. It will be pretty cool.”
Konerko’s NHL connection runs so deep that he said Tuesday that he could name the Stanley Cup champion and the captain who lifted the cup for every year back to his days as a teenager.
“Yeah, I recognize the magnitude of it and how cool it is,” said Konerko of attending a Game 7. “You are always pulling for the guys on the team that had not won one. That’s a big thing in hockey, those guys are animals out there.
“You appreciate that they play hurt. They are really just one of a kind type of guys. You just respect that as a fellow kind of athlete or player in another sport. It doesn’t get lost on me the importance of what it means to those guys, where they come from and all that. It’s a huge deal, probably more than any other sport.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Low-scoring pitchers’ battles are unusual bordering on unlikely in Arizona, but Monday’s 3-1 victory for the White Sox over the Rockies fit into that category. Here’s a look.
HOME RUN: It’s as rare to see a Cactus League complete game as it is to see a torrential downpour in the desert. But Chris Sale was on that pace Monday, needing just 32 pitches to complete three innings and 50 over five. He struck out two, didn’t issue a walk and allowed one run on three hits over five-plus innings and 58 pitches.
“He looked great,” said White Sox manager Robin Ventura of Sale. “He got it going and stretched it out today, going into the sixth. He feels good and looks fine.”
“Every time that I go out there, my goal in mind is throwing strikes and attacking the zone,” Sale said. “I didn’t walk anybody. So, that’s where I want to be.”
TRIPLE: Another Cactus League game, another long home run for Paul Konerko who served as the designated hitter Monday. Konerko now has five long balls and has been making solid contact since Day 1.
DOUBLE: Jared Mitchell finished 0-for-2 with a walk at the plate on Monday but showed off other parts of his skill-set. Mitchell swiped second in the second and then made a nice running catch against the left field wall to start the fourth on a blast by Eric Young. Mitchell won’t break camp with the White Sox but certainly has impressed with his Spring Training play.
SINGLE: Gordon Beckham knocked out two hits. Angel Sanchez, who started at shortstop, tripled, singled and scored a run.
STOLEN BASE: If you arrived late for this particular contest, you potentially missed a good portion of the action. The time of game was 2:13.
CALLED THIRD: Ramon Troncoso turned in another strong outing, with the veteran reliever finishing the victory via a scoreless ninth. It might be tough for the right-hander to crack the White Sox opening bullpen alignment, barring injury, but he gives the team another strong option if needed.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: The White Sox could have scored more than one run in the third if not for Jordan Danks getting picked off third by Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba with runners on first and third, nobody out and Adam Dunn at the plate. Dunn then gave Sale a chance for early postgame stretching, when the left-hander had to contort to catch Dunn’s throw on Todd Helton’s inning-ending grounder to first in the fifth.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Saturday’s 11-9 victory for the Diamondbacks over the White Sox had the feel of Opening Day in Chicago, if only for that fact that game-time temperature was 50 degrees. Here’s a look at the action.
HOME RUN: Without even asking Paul Konerko, it’s safe to say that the White Sox captain won’t base anything on Cactus League results. But the fact remains that the first baseman has been hitting the ball hard through the first 13 games of action: including the exhibition with Team USA. He singled in his first at-bat Saturday, giving him seven straight at-bats with hits, and then after lining out to center, launched a three-run homer in the fifth. Konerko is hitting .409 to date.
TRIPLE: Jared Mitchell continues to impress this spring, adding a triple and single to his resume in Scottsdale and raising his average to .450. He also showed more signs of his great speed with a stolen base.
DOUBLE: For the White Sox to take off this season, they are going to need better production from Alexei Ramirez. It’s a fact Ramirez has talked about, despite having a pretty good season statistically in 2012, commensurate with his past production. Ramirez showed his run-producing ability with a two-run double in the second among his two hits.
SINGLE: Josh Bell continued his strong spring with a two-run homer off of Brandon McCarthy in the second. Jeff Keppinger added two hits, raising his average to .476.
STOLEN BASE: The “getting in my work” theory applied to Matt Thornton’s afternoon, as he allowed six runs on five hits over two-thirds of an inning. Thornton laughed about being lucky that the White Sox don’t face Arizona this season but even better news for the left-hander is that the game took place just 10 minutes from his family’s new home. After a rough day of work, it was at least a short ride back to the family.
CALLED THIRD: It was a rough day for the pitchers, but Hector Santiago pitched well over two scoreless innings. He struck out two, allowed two hits and walked two. Nestor Molina also had a solid day at the B Game loss to the Indians, throwing three scoreless innings with one strikeout.
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: John Danks struggled during his second Cactus League start, but as Bill Murray once said in the movie Meatballs, it just doesn’t matter. Well, it matters because as Danks said, he never likes getting hit around. But right now the process is far more important than the results in Danks’ comeback from Aug. 6 arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Danks’ location just wasn’t there on Saturday.
“It just will take time for Johnny to get sharper and get that control you need to do it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s not happy with today either. You just keep working on it. I think he’s going to get it. Right now it’s just not there.
“He goes out and gets stronger each time. Again, it’s not what he wanted but we’re going to see what it looks like tomorrow and the next day and go from there.”
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Sure, it’s only Cactus League play, with individuals making major contributions who won’t be part of the Opening Day roster against pitchers who have the same slim chance. But after posting an 8-4 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday at Camelback Ranch, the White Sox are much happier to be unbeaten instead of winless.
“You like the way it is. It doesn’t matter which guys are playing on which day. Even though you mix it up, they kind of keep that flow going,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “And we’re pitching well too.
“For the most part, we’re getting guys going out there and limiting things and playing defense. Guys are going up swinging the bat, being aggressive.”
Here’s a deeper look at Wednesday’s victory.
HOME RUN: As hitting coach Jeff Manto and left fielder Dayan Viciedo told MLB.com, Viciedo’s new leg kick as part of his swing will be a work in progress. Ventura agrees, although he liked the two hits Viciedo knocked out on Wednesday.
“I don’t expect him to get it right away. But I think the timing of it and the things he was having problems with last year, it’ll help that,” said Ventura of Viciedo. “Just balance and seeing pitches. I think last year he got into a mode of he was swinging no matter what.
“The leg kick gives you a little more balance of pushing you back and getting recognition and going after it. It is a work in progress but I think having thrown BP to him and watching him, you see little steps that he has taken. It’s working with two strikes.”
TRIPLE: This much is certain through the early part of Spring Training: Keenyn Walker can run. He tripled among his two hits Wednesday, basically gliding around the bases.
DOUBLE: Let’s put Conor Gillaspie in this spot, since a double is the only hit he’s missing from reaching the cycle over his last two games. Gillaspie went deep off of Collin Balester in the sixth inning, adding to his triple and single from Tuesday. He has six RBIs in two games.
SINGLE: Jeff Keppinger doubled, walked and scored two runs after replacing Adam Dunn at designated hitter. Although he has not yet played the field, Keppinger’s hitting has not suffered from a sore right shoulder. Steve Tolleson had two hits, including a double, and Ramon Troncoso threw two scoreless innings in relief.
STOLEN BASE: No, Paul Konerko doesn’t get many of these. But his home run in the fifth inning against Robbie Ross was his 18th in Cactus League action since 2006.
CALLED THIRD: Simon Castro followed Nestor Molina’s lead on Tuesday, allowing one hit and one walk over three innings.
“I feel good right now with my mechanics and everything we do,” Castro said.
“You’re looking at maturity and just being able to compete at a different level,” said Ventura of Castro. “This year I think he has command and the confidence that comes with being another year into it and control.”
JUST A BIT OUTSIDE: It was a good news, bad news sort of afternoon for veteran reliever Jeff Gray. The good news was that he struck out the side in the sixth. The bad news is he also allowed three runs in the frame.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Rick Hahn Cactus League era is starting to look just like the Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL record. Three games for the White Sox with Hahn as the new general manager, one win and two ties.
Monday’s deadlock was almost like a victory for the White Sox, who trailed 9-0 after three against the defending World Series champions from San Francisco. But the White Sox scored two in the sixth and seven in the eighth to forge the 9-9 break-even point. Here’s a look.
HOME RUN: It’s commonly believed that the White Sox will go as far as their pitching staff will take them. That statement means relievers as well as starters.
Late-inning relievers Matt Lindstrom, Jesse Crain and Nate Jones and closer Addison Reed combined to throw four innings and allow one hit while striking out five. Not a bad start.
TRIPLE: Brent Morel came into camp brimming with confidence, buoyed by a healthy back and knowledge of the on-field ability he possesses when he’s healthy. Monday’s effort continued to show that not taking Morel could be the White Sox toughest Spring Training decision. Morel lined a solid single to right off of Madison Bumgarner in the first and made a slick catch on Angel Pagan’s line drive in the bottom of the frame. Morel’s back also survived what has been described as a fairly hard infield at Scottsdale Stadium,
DOUBLE: This comeback was brought to White Sox fans by the organization’s Minor League system, albeit against Giants’ Minor Leaguers. Keenyn Walker and Josh Phegley had big hits in the seven-run eighth, setting up Seth Loman’s game-tying three-run clout off of Brett Bochy.
SINGLE: Paul Konerko knocked out two hits in three at-bats. Jared Mitchell tripled home two runs.
STOLEN BASE: Ok, Loman just turned 27 and has next to no chance to break camp with the White Sox. But give the young first baseman credit for his prodigious power. He has two homers in three games, and they’ve traveled an approximate combined distance of 900 feet. Monday’s blast hit the awning over the fan deck in right, beyond the bullpen.
CALLED THIRD: Neither Hector Santiago nor Andre Rienzo had the afternoon they wanted on the mound. That’s the somewhat bad news because after all, these statistics never make it to the back of baseball cards. It’s all about the work. The good news is they are ready to for their next trip to the mound, which for Rienzo, will be Saturday for Team Brazil in Japan at the World Baseball Classic.
While Ozzie Guillen was holding court in his return to Chicago at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, Adam Dunn was getting ready to help the White Sox to another victory some 983 miles away at Fenway Park in Boston.
Guillen and Dunn have not spoken directly since Guillen’s White Sox managerial tenure came to an end after the 2011 season, although they have exchanged friendly messages through Austin Kearns, a good friend of the White Sox designated hitter and a current player for the Marlins manager. The two apparently don’t have to talk directly, though, for Guillen to express his profound respect for the affable veteran.
That effusive praise came through loud and clear during Guillen’s comments to the large group of assembled media in Chicago. Guillen spoke of the positive way which Dunn handled his forgettable debut with the White Sox in ’11 and added how happy he was for Dunn to find success in 2012.
Dunn, who is as laid back as a summer Sunday afternoon and seems to be truly enjoying this return to his previous norm as he promised during Spring Training, appreciated Guillen’s kind words.
“Absolutely it means something,” Dunn told MLB.com after singling, walking and stealing a base in the White Sox 7-5 victory over the Red Sox. “I talked to (Guillen) about it all the time. He did everything he could to help me out.
“Everything he did was to help me. He gave me every opportunity in the world. You know, I feel bad. I feel bad for that whole staff that was here. I know they took a whole bunch of (garbage) each and every day about it. You know, it means a lot: (Guillen) has been in baseball a long time.”
This high-profile free agent signing came in to the White Sox on a four-year, $56-million deal, as almost the centerpiece of the team’s “all-in” campaign. So with that scenario in mind, Dunn still puts the previous team’s problems upon his broad shoulders—including, in part, the strained relationship between Guillen and general manager Ken Williams.
“I’ll take it all,” Dunn said. “I feel like I’m responsible for all that more than anybody else. You know, it (stinks) how it went down but everybody now seems to be doing good.”
That 2011 campaign is a distant memory for Dunn, where he has been trying to keep it since the start of the 2012 season. With the Major League lead in homers at 28 and 65 RBIs to go with those homers, not to mention the 2012 season fast approaching the end of July, Dunn has every right to believe such an expectation would be followed.
Comments from Guillen’s Tuesday press conference put a positive spin on that rough year for Dunn. In fact, Dunn was put in the same category as Jim Thome and Paul Konerko by Guillen, which is the highest compliment in player comparison coming from Guillen.
“If there’s one player I have more respect for in the game than Thome, Konerko, I think Dunner is,” said Guillen to the large group of assembled media. “What Dunner went through last year, and he took it like a man. He was the same guy in the clubhouse and dugout every day.
“He just had a bad year. It takes a very strong man mentally to go through what he went through last year. I’m very happy for him and his family for what he’s doing right now, and he knows that.
“I’m not saying this about Dunner because I’m here,” Guillen said. “He knows how I feel about him and I’m very glad he’s having the season he’s having.”
The White Sox turned a two-run deficit into a 3-2 victory via a ninth-inning rally against the Rangers, raising their record to 2-4 overall. Here’s a look at Saturday’s first-game action.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Dylan Axelrod, Zach Stewart and Eric Stults amped up the long relief competition with two strong innings apiece Saturday. Hector Santiago seems to have a leg up for one of the three remaining relief openings, meaning it might be tough for another southpaw such as Stults to break camp as the fourth left-hander. So, it could come down to Axelrod and Stewart for one relief opening.
“I focus on what I’m doing, but you don’t want to root against anyone,” Stewart said. “I want everyone else to do good, because the better everyone else is doing, the better it makes the team around you.”
Although the regulars were gone by the ninth inning, some White Sox Minor Leaguers helped put together a three-run rally for the victory. Trayce Thompson walked, Andy Wilkins doubled and Ken Williams, Jr. delivered the two-out, game-winning single via an infield hit with the bases loaded.
Eduardo Escobar, who remains in the mix for the final position player roster spot partially because of his versatility, had two hits after starting at third base. Brian Bruney earned the victory with a scoreless ninth, giving him two scoreless innings in Cactus League action.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The White Sox didn’t get a baserunner in four innings against Texas starter Colby Lewis, and on any level of competition, those results aren’t good.
“We tried to set up Lewis, just for Opening Day, make him comfortable,” said a smiling White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who gave all the credit to Lewis.
Paul Konerko also fouled a ball off of his left knee on a seventh-inning pitch from Scott Feldman, and White Sox fans collectively held their breath as he walked around in pain. But Konerko finished the at-bat and seemed to walk normally off the field to the clubhouse when he was replaced prior to the eighth inning.
WHAT’S NEXT: It’s bonus baseball at Camelback Ranch, with Philip Humber and the White Sox taking on Chad Billingsley and the Dodgers Saturday night. It’s the second time the White Sox have faced Billingsley this week.
MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Williams has not had a lot of luck where health is concerned or a great deal of overwhelming success over his four Minor League seasons with the White Sox. But he did get to experience a game-winning hit with his single to center and his hustle down the first-base line in the ninth.
MOMENT TO FORGET: Pretty much the first four innings. Lewis was outstanding and efficient, needing just 36 pitches, and the White Sox didn’t seem to have much of a chance.
You know those bad dreams we all have from time to time, the one where someone evil is chasing or the one where college graduation never occurred because of sleeping through a class or two? Well, we all eventually wake up from those nightmares, breathe a sigh of relief or laugh at the absurdity and move on with our lives.
Now, try living those unwanted moments every day for almost four months, and you’ll have a greater understanding of Adam Dunn’s first season with the White Sox.
To Dunn’s credit, he has handled this most trying of situations with great class and dignity. No outbursts or hiding from the media. No sullen avoidances of his supportive teammates.
Dunn has been the same great clubhouse force everyone predicted when he agreed to a four-year, $56-million deal with the White Sox this past offseason. But nobody could have seen this disaster at the plate on the horizon.
Here’s the problem. This prolonged slump continues to cost the White Sox in games they simply can’t afford to lose. Take Monday’s 3-2 setback to the Yankees, as an example.
CC Sabathia struck out Dunn three times, raising his season’s strikeout total to 137. Dunn also slipped to 3-for-77 on the season against southpaws and just 21-for-159 in a home ballpark where it was thought he would flourish.
And with the game on the line in the sixth and the eighth, Dunn struck out both times and Sabathia knew he could get him. In the eighth, with none on, two outs and the Yankees clinging to a one-run lead, third baseman Eric Chavez came up to Sabathia and told him not to give in to Carlos Quentin because Dunn was on-deck, according to the Yankees ace.
“I mean, you know it’s there, and he’s just having a tough year,” said a respectful Sabathia of Dunn. “You don’t want to make mistakes, you don’t want to give in, you don’t want to get lazy and make a pitch that you’ll regret.
“He’s had a tough year. I know he hadn’t hit lefties really good this year, so like I said, I was just trying to make pitches and I ended up getting him in some tough spots.”
Quentin dropped a bloop single to center with two outs, but Dunn struck out on three pitches. As White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski pointed out, Sabathia aced Dunn with a 97 mph fastball, a 98 mph fastball and then an 84 mph slider. Even hitters going at their best have a tough time hitting one of the game’s top starters—especially through that sort of sequence.
With Paul Konerko out of action in this series opener due to a sore left knee/calf after being hit by an Andrew Miller fastball Sunday, Dunn had to face Sabathia. And with Alex Rios hitting fifth, struggling just as much as Dunn, there was no way in Ozzie Guillen’s estimation to drop Dunn from fourth in the order.
“What I have behind him is not better,” said Guillen in his pregame media chat. “Who, A.J.? When you look at A.J., he’s not hit good when we move him up, so we just leave him there where he is. (Gordon) Beckham struggles, (Brent) Morel is OK, but Morel is not a fifth hitter.
“Those guys are right where they are. They have to make it right. I think we set the lineup pretty well. Those guys gotta perform. They gotta do it for them.
“A lot of people say, ‘Well why you guys play this?’ Well, I want somebody else to send me the lineup,” Guillen said. “Send me the lineup, please, anybody, if I’m making the wrong lineup. No, I make the right lineup, we’re just not hitting. I’m going to play (Alejandro) De Aza against Sabathia and against (Jon) Lester? I think our lineup is good, it’s just not hitting.”
Support is there in full-force from Dunn’s teammates, as expressed by Gordon Beckham and Pierzynski following Monday’s loss. Pierzynski reiterated that they all hope Tuesday is the day Dunn takes off and hits 20 homers to carry this team over the final two months.
“I love Adam Dunn, on and off the field,” Pierzynski said. “Everyone’s been there. If you’ve ever played this game, you’ve struggled. This is not an easy game to play. It’s not something that you can go out there and say this or that and it works. It’s not football where you can get yelled and screamed it and it makes you play better.
“There’s only so much you can do. You’ve got to put the work in. He’s done that. He’s put the time in and he’s trying to make adjustments.”
Until those adjustments pay off in consistent offense, the boos will continue to cascade down upon Dunn’s broad shoulders at U.S. Cellular Field. Opposing pitchers will continue to target Dunn in potential game-changing situations, and the baseball nightmare will continue to be reality for the affable slugger.
“You just have to make sure that you’re going to make pitches, especially if you know that you’re going to not pitch around the guy, but not pitch in to him,” Sabathia said. “You better make sure that you make pitches to the guy you want to get out.”
“It’s not easy when people don’t seem like they are behind you, and I know it’s tough on him,” Beckham said. “Obviously he wants to do well, we want him to do well. I definitely wouldn’t be taking it like he’s been able to. He’s been upbeat the whole time but it still hasn’t come for him. There’s still time and I believe there’s still time. If he can just get going for us in any capacity, we have a good chance to win.”
While Frank Thomas was rightfully basking in the glory of his statue being unveiled on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field, the Big Hurt took the time to touch on a few other White Sox-related matters. Here’s a look at those topics.
ON ADAM DUNN’S STRUGGLES
“I’ve talked to Adam a lot. He’s a good guy, very, very good guy. He’s going through a tremendous slump. It’s part of the game. It won’t be his last slump if he continues to play this game a long time. But he’s never seen anything like it. No one else has. He’s going to come out of it, sooner or later. If it’s not this year, next year he’ll come out of it.”
ADVICE TO DUNN
“Adam is a different type of hitter than me. Adam is a long ball guy; he’s a monster home run guy. With me, I was happy to get a single, so when I was going through those slumps I didn’t mid punching the ball to right field or wherever else just to get a hit.
“I think he’s got to start doing a little bit of that. I told him the other day, ‘It’s OK to punch in a single every now and then. If they want to shift on you, punch the ball through the shortstop. There’s nothing wrong with it.’
“He’s having a lot of fun and he was happy to hear that the other day. I said, ‘You know what? Go up there and think about hitting three doubles and a home run will happen.’ He’s a good guy, he’s handled it well. He’s going to have a good future here.”
ON STRUGGLES OF FORMER BLUE JAYS’ TEAMMATE ALEX RIOS
“I spent a year and a half with Alex and I know what the guy is capable of doing. Right now, he’s fighting himself.
“For me, I would change that stance. We talked about it the other day. There’s nothing wrong with going in the cage and messing around with it.
“We saw one of the most successful players to ever play this game, Cal Ripken, he had a new stance every week. I told Alex, the bottom line is hitting the baseball. Go in the cage and figure something out. Get comfortable, because he’s not comfortable right now.”
ON PAUL KONERKO’S EXCELLENCE
“It’s great. Paulie has had a great last three years here. Some guys find it in their late 20s. Paulie is finding it in his mid-30s. Bottom line is he’s getting it done. He’s having fun and he’s comfortable. More power to him. If he keeps this up, he’s going to be out there on that concourse, too.”
ON THOMAS’ FUTURE IN BASEBALL
“Who knows? I’m not saying what I want to do or would like to do. Right now I’m just happy to be a part of this organization. It’s always great to come down and go into the locker room and see the guys.
“It just brings back so many memories. I can see the look in the guys’ eyes. I can see the guys who are doing well. I can look at the guys and tell who’s struggling. That’s just a part of my life. I like to come in and say hello and help guys out because we had older guys who came in and helped us out throughout my years.”