By Bruce Levine-
GLENDALE, Ariz. (CBS) — Going into his 16th and final season with the White Sox, first baseman/designated hitter Paul Konerko will be part-player, part-motivator in 2014. The iconic Konerko understands his role on this years evolving club.
“I know I am not playing every day,” Konerko said. “I will be prepared to play, however when I don’t, I will try to help the team and my teammates in other ways.”
Konerko is not a part-time coach, according to manager Robin Ventura. As team captain, Konerko will spend time as mentor to some of the younger players who are moving in to replace the veteran core that has been built around Konerko and Adam Dunn the past three years.
“He can be a mentor and an influence,” Ventura said. “His message is accepted better than anybody else’s. He can still play that role of player-mentor. We are not going to bring him in for the whole coaches’ meeting, but I will still have conversations with him.”
Konerko has beefed up, adding 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, saying he hit the weight room hard in the fall to add some upper body strength. Ventura says he doesn’t plan to have Konerko, Dunn and Jose Abreu start in many lineups together.
Dunn will get some playing time in left field in spring training, and this tactic will allow the White Sox some flexibility with the lineup to rest or use Abreu and Dayan Viciedo at DH from time to time.
Ventura refuses to speculate how his lineup will be set up. One thing is for sure: Expect Abreu to hit either third, fourth or fifth. The Sox did not pay him $68 million to bat seventh or eighth.
As for the DH , Ventura said he will mix and match both Konerko and Dunn but will also play the hot hand as he sees fit.
Bruce Levine is a baseball reporter/analyst for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.