Paul Konerko firmly declined Wednesday to use the word “coach” in any of the upcoming job descriptions of his 16th and final season with the White Sox at age 38 in 2014.
But if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck …
Term the all-time South Side icon a father-confessor, senior advisor, counselor, tutor or whatever. The Sox’s longtime captain is called “King” within the clubhouse. By whatever name, when projected part-time designated hitter-first baseman Konerko is not playing next season, he’ll effectively be an extra instructor in the locker room or on the bench.
After all, Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams admitted for a brief moment two years ago, he thought of naming Konerko player-manager before hiring Robin Ventura.
“It might give me some insight to what they (coaches) go through, if years down the road or something comes up with an opportunity to coach,” Konerko said. “It might turn me off to that; it might turn me on to that. That’s as far as I might take that thought.”
Yet in the next breath, Konerko talked about working with his teammates. He already has spoken with new hitting coach Todd Steverson to make sure they’re on the same page.
“If I can get the (Gordon) Beckhams and the (Dayan) Viciedos, Abreu, (Conor) Gillaspie, any of these guys who I can help to get going,” he said, “that’s kind of where we can turn that (season around). That’s kind of where a lot of my energy will be spent.”
After nearly a year of speculation about his 2014 plans, Konerko decided to accept a part-time role in his big-league farewell tour when he learned several potential suitors, including a playoff team, had envisioned him as a sometime starter.
All things being equal, he’d stay put if the Sox would still have him in that role.
“It wasn’t crazy for the White Sox to think this either,” he said.
He gave his team the ultimate home town discount in a one-year, $2.5-million contract, sandwiched around deferred payments from his final lucrative multi-year deal.
The six-time American League All-Star will receive $1.5 million in 2014 and $1 million in 2021. The deferred money from his previous three-year contract signed Dec. 8, 2010 features a $1 million annual payout from 2014 to 2020.
Konerko is envisioned basically working in a righty-lefty platoon at designated hitter with Adam Dunn, after admitting he still felt comfortable facing left-handers in a 2013 season that was his worst for run production as a Sox starter. He also could see some time subbing for free-agent signee Jose Abreu at first if the 26-year-old Cuban needs a break from adjusting to the majors.
Konerko is already mentally transitioning to role player. The physical part, to keep his rhythm at the plate despite not playing every day, will obviously lag behind.
“Accepting of the role, I’m probably way ahead of everybody else on that … I just knew this is where it was headed,” he said. “I’m excited about it. Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t come back to any situation if I was slated to play a lot.”
Ventura said portioning out Konerko’s playing time in which three power types vie for time at two positions will depend on matchups.
“A bit of mixing and matching that will go on,” Ventura said. “I won’t sit and bang my head over it.”