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Paul Konerko only 34 HRs behind Frank Thomas on White Sox’ all-time list

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Updated: March 13, 2013 11:12PM



GLENDALE, Ariz. — If this is Paul Konerko’s last year with the White Sox — and that should be determined when his contract runs out after the season — this will be his last shot at becoming the franchise’s all-time home-run king.

The “King,” as he is respectfully called by teammates, needs 34 long balls to unseat Frank Thomas, who hit 448 of his 521 home runs in a Sox uniform.

“I’m aware of it,’’ Konerko said Wednesday. “It’s tough not to be, statistically speaking, because everybody is an expert about statistics.’’

About to begin his 15th season with the Sox, Konerko (415 homers with the South Siders) has seven homers in 81 games played in different uniforms. He might know what the numbers are, but he’ll let others do the talking about them.

“I look at it like this: The way you get to it is thinking about small things, having a good game,’’ Konerko said. “That leads to a good week or a month or a year. The by-product is that numbers add up after a time. If I do my job for the 2013 White Sox, the by-product might be that it happens — and it might not, who knows? It might be close.

“I’ve never gone into a season and said I’m going to reconstruct this to make this happen. If you do, you’re asking for trouble. The goal is to have a good, solid season for your team.’’

Konerko goes into the season with a good, solid home-run stroke. With a Cactus League-high five homers, he looks ready at 37, but he says he needs more time.

“Every year you kind of dislike spring training a little more, but you kind of need it more every year,’’ he said.

Konerko said he needs to field more ground balls in game situations. Before Wednesday’s game, he said, “I can count the grounders I’ve had on one hand.’’ Then the first two Indians hit grounders to him.

He also wouldn’t mind if Alexei Ramirez made a low throw from shortstop for him to scoop.

“You want a couple of bad throws,’’ Konerko said. “You want some things to happen out there.

‘‘You’re at the mercy of the game, but you want more game situations out there.’’

Despite being 11-for-29 after getting a single against Ubaldo Jimenez in the first for his 10th hit in 16 at-bats, Konerko said he’s not there yet with the end of camp two weeks away.

“Hitting-wise, I’ve taken some nice swings,’’ he said. “Still giving away some at-bats on my bad ones that I don’t like. You’re going to make outs, but there are a couple of bad at-bats that get away from you. Also, you might face the starter for two at-bats. As it gets deeper in spring, you might face the starter three at-bats and a big-league reliever in the fourth once. That’s where you start gauging stuff more.’’

The gauge on Konerko’s career numbers approach a Hall of Fame read. In Sox record books, he’s one hit from tying Thomas (2,136) for third place and is second with 1,307 RBI, 158 behind Thomas.

So it goes when you’ve had a franchise-record 12 seasons with at least 20 home runs to go with six 100-RBI seasons.

“Besides the [2005] World Series, the thing that I’m most proud of is being with one team,’’ Konerko said.

“I look at it as something that’s a cool thing. I think 90 percent of guys would want to be in one place, but because of the numbers game and business side, a lot of it is luck. Being with one team, what is this, my 15th year? That definitely, in my mind, is pretty cool.’’

Indians 5, White Sox 2

FOR THE RECORD: Using their second-tier pitchers against their AL Central rivals — Jake Peavy and relievers Addison Reed, Nate Jones, Matt Thornton and Donnie Veal pitched in minor-league scrimmages earlier in the day — the White Sox fell to 8-6-2. They strung four hits together in the second inning against Indians No. 2 starter Ubaldo Jimenez, including a double by Gordon Beckham for an RBI and Dewayne Wise’s RBI single. But they had only two hits over the last six innings. With runners in scoring position, the Sox were 1-for-8.

ON THE PLUS SIDE: Alexei Ramirez (.409) singled twice and stole a base, Wise had two singles and Beckham hit a ground-rule double against Jimenez that traveled 400 feet on the fly to center to extend his hitting streak to five games. Paul Konerko (1-for-3) singled in his first at-bat for his 10th hit in 16 at-bats before making a couple of outs. Konerko is batting .355.

ON THE DOWN SIDE: Jordan Danks’ average dropped to .056 with an 0-for-3 day, including two strikeouts. Top infield prospect Carlos Sanchez air-mailed a throw from deep shortstop for his third error. Deunte Heath allowed a two-run homer to Cord Phelps.

HE’S BACK: Brazilian Andre Rienzo started and gave up two runs in three innings after returning from the World Baseball Classic. “He looked good compared to the last outing [when he failed to retire a Giants hitter],’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “Time-wise, he’s catching back up. He’s been moving all over the place.”

UP NEXT: at Angels, 3:05 p.m. John Danks starts against the Angels’ Jason Vargas.



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