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Konerko endorses Sox' off-season moves
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Staff

Paul Konerko

 

Associated Press

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Published: 1/21/2010 4:52 PM

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As the White Sox' captain, Paul Konerko's opinion carries a lot of weight with general manager Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen.

In town for this weekend's soldout SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton, Konerko is going to continue lobbying for the return of two former teammates that are still free agents - designated hitter Jim Thome and right fielder Jermaine Dye.

It's highly unlikely that either player will be back in a White Sox uniform this season, but Konerko did endorse the moves Williams has already made -- getting third baseman Mark Teahen and center fielder Juan Pierre in trades and signing three free agents: reliever J.J. Putz, outfielder/designated hitter Andruw Jones and 42-year-old infielder Omar Vizquel.

"I think Teahen, he's kind of coming into his prime," Konerko said. "I think that's obviously a good move; you're hopefully catching him on the upswing. Pierre, he's (32), but he's had a couple of years now where he didn't play every day so he's probably fresh and ready to go.

"You've got J.J. in the bullpen, which I think is probably the big sleeper move of the off-season because if he's healthy, that's another big arm down there and that's really going to shape us up at the end of the game. We're shaping up well."

The addition of two players last season, starting pitchers Jake Peavy and Freddy Garcia, are the biggest reasons the Sox head into 2010 favored by many to win the AL Central for the third time in six years.

"There have been some nice moves in the off-season, and you've got to like the pitching staff, No. 1," said Konerko, who is entering the final season of a five-year, $60 million contract. "I like the way the team's shaping up. Obviously, there are a lot of things that still have to go right, but we're looking pretty good going in. I like our chances."

Last week, ESPN's Buster Olney compared the AL Central to the "island of misfit toys."

There is little doubt the division stacks up as the weakest in the American League, but Konerko thinks Williams has again put the White Sox in position to be a playoff contender.

"I've been lucky since I've been here," said Konerko, who was acquired from the Reds by former GM Ron Schueler in a Nov. 10, 1998 trade for Mike Cameron. "Every year I've been here except for my first year, the team has made moves in the off-season to go after making the playoffs. I don't take that lightly. I'm lucky as a player to play in one place that long where the team is going after it every year. That's not the case in every organization."

While Thome keeps his fingers crossed and waits for an unlikely call to return for another year, the Sox head into the season planning to use Mark Kotsay, Jones and Konerko at designated hitter.

Konerko's not quite sure how that's going to work.

"I've never been on a team that did that since I've been a White Sox," he said. "It's been Frank (Thomas), I think my first year or two I DHed a little bit with Frank playing some first (base).

"But since 2000, every year I've been here there's been a full-time DH, barring a week here or there with a guy hurt or what. I don't know, I'll have to see how that plays out. They seem confident it's the right thing to do and Ozzie likes that. We'll see."