Fall-back plan stresses youth, defense

CHICAGO –- If those really were goodbyes A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko were saying during Sunday’s season finale, the White Sox already have a plan to move forward.

General manager Kenny Williams feels he has the in-house answers for the two potential veteran departures. Of course, Williams can still go shopping for free agents or work trades, but if none of that comes to fruition the White Sox not only have a plan, they seem to have a way of selling their new-look club.

Dayan Viciedo would be the leading candidate to take over for Konerko at first base, while Tyler Flowers would take over for Pierzynski.

It would make the White Sox extremely young at a number of key positions. They would have a rookie in Flowers at catcher, a rookie in Brent Morel at third, Alexei Ramirez at short, third-year player Gordon Beckham at second and Viciedo at first.

Viciedo will not be considered a rookie next season, even though he had less than the maximum 130 at-bats. He spent 55 days on the active roster during the 25-player limit period, exceeding the minimum by 10 days.

“Look at the infield with Morel, Ramirez and Beckham, and … if you had to go with Viciedo, who is just a tick behind. He could use work in his discipline, but we all see the type of player he can be and the impact he can have,” Williams said. “With Tyler Flowers figuring out some of the mechanical things and us not knowing about A.J., that’s a defensive unit out there that has offensive capabilities.”

“Come see the defense,” wouldn’t be the best way to sell tickets, but it would be a game plan that manager Ozzie Guillen would endorse. Guillen not only swears by pitching and defense, but a heavy burden would be placed on small ball, which Guillen also endorses.

Is he sure Williams can find the pieces the White Sox need this offseason?

“I think he will,” Guillen said. “I don’t know exactly what we want. I don’t want to put any worries in anybody’s mouth, but I think we want to win. I think we want to be on the top. That’s what we were doing the last couple of years. I don’t hear anything different. Meetings, we don’t have a meeting right now. I told Kenny I’m going to have a couple of days off and go some places and come back and we can talk about the ball club.”

Guillen has a trip to Spain in the works this week, while Williams will also take some downtime.

“I need to give myself a little break here for a couple of weeks because over the last month I have literally been going through countless permutations every day and every night,” Williams said. “How can we get it right? Which of our young players fit in? Which of our veterans fit in? Who is going to be available via trade? Who is going to be available via free agency? How much money do we have to spend and how should we allocate it?

"A lot of things go into the mix and a lot you are not in control of. Believe me, I can put on paper a hell of a team. But can you afford that team? Can you acquire those players? We’ll see. I need to shut it down for a minute.”

When he ramps it back up, Konerko will be on the docket. The first baseman was feted with chants, standing ovations and curtain calls, on a day that surely looked like it was his last in town. Konerko admitted the day was emotional.

“It’s kind of one of those things where the door is not shut here by any means,” said Konerko, who went 2-for-3 on Sunday and finished the season with 39 home runs and 111 RBIs. “I just want to get that across. I feel almost guilty now. If I was to come back and this happened a couple of years from now, I feel like no man should get what I got today twice. I felt like should I buy into it all the way. It’s possible, very possible, I could be back. It’s possible I go somewhere else, who knows? I don’t walk out of here today going ‘God, I’m done with that city.’ I’m totally open to anything but it has to be right on all accounts.

“It felt kind of weird because I’m going, this is something a baseball player should only get once'. I could get it twice. I felt a little guilty at times, especially with the way my teammates treated me all day and the last couple of weeks.”

By the numbers

600: Career victories for Guillen after the season ended with a 6-5 triumph over the Indians. That is an average of just short of 85 victories in each of his seven seasons.


“I just felt that was a moment where I've hit 40 [home runs] twice and the world didn't change, so it wasn't like if I did it, it was going to be something earth-shattering. So I just felt like at that moment I could tell [Mark Kotsay] wanted to get an at-bat and I just wanted to give it to him. But he didn't want to let me give it to him. That's him. So we're both kind of arguing back and forth on that whole thing. … I just felt that that was the right thing to do.” Konerko, on why he forfeited his last at-bat and a chance to hit 40 home runs to give an at-bat to Kotsay, who is considering retirement.