Paul Konerko likes Sox’ changes, but he won’t forget ’13

Written By BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter Posted: 03/23/2014, 02:33am
Array Sox captain Paul Konerko hopes he and the other holdovers from a terrible 2013 can take some lessons from last season. | AP

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For the White Sox, cutting the cord from 2013 is a good thing. But pocketing a shred of it to keep as a small reminder would be a good thing, too, captain Paul Konerko said.

‘‘This team this spring doesn’t feel any connection or direct link to last year, which is a really good thing,’’ Konerko said.

Ninety-nine losses and the way they went down is as bad as anything Konerko, who is entering his 17th and final major-league season, has experienced. And while the additions of players such as center fielder Adam Eaton and first baseman Jose Abreu have changed the culture in the clubhouse and on the field for the better, the holdovers can take some good from 2013.

‘‘Yeah, we want to move ahead,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘But there will be moments when you have that tug of going in the wrong direction as a team, and that might be a time to remember last year and say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to go there.’ We lost five in a row, and, instead of righting the ship, we lost eight or nine in a row. So, yeah, we’d like to shut the door on what happened last year.’’

Young, hungry players such as right fielder Avisail Garcia, Eaton and Abreu are setting a tone on the Sox, and Konerko likes the feel of it.

‘‘There’s a lot of talent walking around, more than I can remember the last couple of years,’’ he said. ‘‘And these guys want to be good. They recognize that it’s their time to establish themselves in the big leagues. Guys like Avi and Eaton. I was in that same place once when I got traded here. You knew you had time on your side, but you knew it was time to go. I sense that guys are real serious about their careers, and that’s good.’’

Whether that translates into a winning, competitive or still-developing team in 2014 remains to be seen. Konerko said the Sox appear to have enough pitching and other pieces to ‘‘make things difficult’’ on the upper-level teams, but there’s no point predicting how good the Sox can be beyond that.

‘‘There are so many variables, and there isn’t anything that happened last year that was on the radar,’’ he said. ‘‘So anytime someone thinks they’re smart predicting stuff, they should just be quiet. You never know what’s going to happen when the season starts. We saw that happen last year.’’

Because of the younger players, Konerko said he expects the Sox will improve as the season goes on.

‘‘Guys can figure it out,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘These guys with their swings, the hitters we have like Eaton and Abreu, these are guys who will get better with their knowledge of who they’re facing because of what their swings are like. Sometimes the more pitchers see a guy, they will find holes. But I don’t think that’s the case with these guys. Our guys, the more at-bats they get, the better.’’

A big wild card in the Sox’ offense will be Abreu, the 27-year-old Cuban free agent whom the Sox signed to a six-year, $68 million contract during the offseason. Going into the weekend, he was batting .308 with two home runs and nine RBI. Konerko watches him with approving eyes.

‘‘Abreu is a special case because he hasn’t been here, seen the stadiums and faced the pitching,’’ Konerko said. ‘‘He has the kind of approach that’s really good just to pick up hits. As he gets comfortable, goes through the division the second time, he’ll be getting better. It won’t be the other way around.

‘‘You can see him driving the ball to left-center as easily as shooting the ball through the hole in right. He can take it whatever way he wants to go. I can see him hitting for high average and maybe the home runs come or vice versa.’’


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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