CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko still doesn’t know if he will accept a trade if asked before the July 31 non-waiver deadline and hasn’t even figured out if he will even play beyond this year, but his recent minor league rehab stint gave him a renewed appreciation for life in the major leagues.
Konerko mended a lower back strain over the weekend with three games at Double-A Birmingham, giving him a flashback to an earlier time.
“I haven’t been in Double-A for 17 years,” Konerko said. “We take a lot for granted here. They have a nice stadium there, which made it easier. They have a nice facility. Around here, guys look young to me now so you can imagine down in Double-A. Some kids, it looked it was high school. Definitely, we take a lot for granted.”
In 1996, Konerko played 133 games at Double-A San Antonio, batting .300 with 29 home runs and 86 RBIs.
“I don’t remember, really, what it was like when I was there because you’re just kind of going through it,” he said. “It was fun. I had fun with those guys, and I know some of them from big-league camp. It was definitely a trip, I’ll give you that. There were some moments, all the promotions between innings and all that kind of stuff that’s going on in the stands, it was refreshing in a lot of ways.”
Perhaps harkening back to a simpler time was just what Konerko needed as he approaches a number of crossroads.
First, there is the matter of the White Sox trying to sell off assets after a disappointing 3½ months to start the season. As a player with 10 years in the league and at least five with the same team, Konerko can veto any deal.
The White Sox are not shopping Konerko as the deadline approaches, but it isn’t out of the question that a team or two could inquire about his availability.
“That was the word, that stuff was going to happen,” Konerko said. “Obviously, those (front office) guys are going to do whatever it is they’re going to. We don’t want to concern ourselves with that kind of stuff. The only thing I’d say is that a lot of guys that have been talked about on our team are under contract, so I’m sure there’s no rush. If it’s somebody they want to move, they could want to move them I guess in the next week.”
Whether he is traded or not his next decision will come after the season. The White Sox aren’t expected to make a major push to re-sign Konerko as they continue with their rebuilding project. The veteran could elect to walk away from the game or play with a different team for the first time in 15 years.
How much will his recent back injury enter into his decision to keep playing?
“I'll weigh all that stuff when the time comes,” Konerko said. “It feels good now. I had a back issue in 2006 that felt a lot similar to this one when it first happened. I thought that was going to be an issue for a long time and I got a couple shots in it and it kind of never bothered me again. You never know how these things can work out.
“We'll just play it by ear and I'm just worrying about tonight, really. I just want to get out there and get back in there. It's really weird. This is the longest layoff I've ever had in a season in 19 years of pro ball. It's odd. I just want to get back in there and get going and feel more like a baseball player as soon as I can.”