Abreu wins Sporting News' AL Rookie of the Year honors

Abreu wins Sporting News' AL Rookie of the Year honors

CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu might be best served to set up a trophy room or at least a trophy shelf at his home in Florida.

On Monday, the 27-year-old slugger picked up Sporting News' 2014 American League Rookie of the Year. He was joined by Mets hurler Jacob deGrom, who got the nod on the National League side.

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Abreu finished with 149 votes, easily outdistancing the Angels' Matt Shoemaker (4 votes) and Yankee hurlers Dellin Betances and Masahiro Tanaka (3). Marcus Semien, the White Sox super utility infielder who played in 64 games and had 255 plate appearances, checked in at fifth with one vote.

After batting .317 with 176 hits, 35 doubles, 36 home runs, 107 RBIs, a .581 slugging percentage and a .383 on-base percentage over 145 games during his White Sox debut, Abreu figures to earn the top AL Rookie spot in the Players Choice Awards and in the BBWAA Awards, which will be announced on Nov. 10. This Monday honor comes with a little extra cache as voted on by the AL players.

"For me, it means a lot that the players who play against me recognize my efforts and my numbers," said Abreu during a Monday conference call, with the assistance of interpreter Billy Russo. "I am thankful for all of them to give me support. I don't have words to describe what I'm feeling right now.

"I want to say thank you to God and the Chicago White Sox and all the people that have helped me to get this award. I'm very humbled to receive this award. I thank all the players who voted for me for this award."

Gordon Beckham in 2009 stands as the last White Sox player to win the Sporting News AL Rookie award, with Abreu becoming the 11th White Sox player overall to be recognized by this group in this category. Abreu will try to become the first White Sox winner since Ozzie Guillen in 1985 when the BBWAA announces its Jackie Robinson Rookies of the Year.

When Abreu first agreed to a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox, he was depicted more as a power-hitting first baseman. Abreu quickly proved that he was an exceptionally skilled offensive force with the ability to hit the ball to all fields with authority.

Mere words don't provide adequate justice to this description as much as Abreu's numerous first-year accomplishments.

• His .581 slugging percentage topped the Majors, joining Dick Allen (1974) as the only players in White Sox history to accomplish this feat. He finished second in the AL in OPS (.964) and total bases (323), tied for third in homers, fourth in RBIs and extra-base hits (73), fifth in average and OBP and tied for 10th in doubles.

• He became the first rookie in Major League history to finish among the Top 5 in his respective league in each Triple Crown category. Abreu joined Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams ('39) and Albert Pujols (2001) as the only rookies in history to record at least 30 doubles, 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a season.

• Abreu's rookie franchise record 36 homers, topping Ron Kittle's previous mark of 35 from 1983, falls as the sixth-most all-time by a Major League rookie. Abreu's 107 RBIs were the third-highest total by a White Sox rookie, trailing only Smead Jolley (114 in '30) and Zeke Bonura (110 in '34).

• Earning an AL All-Star nod made him the fifth White Sox rookie to be named to the Midsummer Classic, and the first since Kittle. He was named AL Player of the Month in April and July and AL Rookie of the Month in April, June and July. Abreu produced four multihomer games and was the only player this season to record three hitting streaks of 14 or more games.

So what does Abreu do for an encore? He doesn't need to change much from the finely-tuned routine developed as a top Major League rookie and AL Most Valuable Player candidate.

"You don't have to tell him a whole lot. He understands his whole work process," said White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson during a recent interview. "He'll come to camp and he'll be ready and he'll go through his routine again. He might alter it a little different understanding what this is all about now. But going forward, he has a good gist of what he does."

"I'm really not a person that follows the numbers from the past. I don't like to talk about it. I will prepare every year to get the numbers I got this year better," Abreu said. "I prepare myself in the best way possible for every day and every year. All the numbers, all the stuff during the season was for me, my family, the White Sox -- I don't have words to describe how I feel about this year."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Former White Sox star Rowand excited for 'little' cousin Shields

Former White Sox star Rowand excited for 'little' cousin Shields

CHICAGO -- When Aaron Rowand was a kid and playing baseball with his three cousins, the youngest of that group, Jamie, often was deemed too small to join in the action.

Jamie, as in James Shields, who figures to start Game 1 of the 2014 World Series this Tuesday against the Giants for his Royals in Kansas City.

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"Believe it or not, Jamie was the runt who wanted to play with us," said Rowand via a phone interview concerning the Royals' ace and close family member. "We were always like, 'You are too small. Get out of here.' Now, he's taller than all of us."

Rowand carved out quite a Major League Baseball career over 11 years with the White Sox, Phillies and Giants, after being selected 35th overall in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft by the White Sox. He hit .273 with 136 homers, 536 RBIs, a .765 OPS, one All-Star appearance, one Gold Glove and a career WAR of 20.8.

There were World Series wins with the White Sox in '05 and Giants in '10, and of course his memorable win-at-all-costs, run-through-the-wall mentality that made him the center of the White Sox famous Grinder Rules in '05. But Shields, that one-time too little to play cousin and one of three sons for Rowand's mother's sister, has carved out his own highly successful niche.

Since '07 with the Rays, the right-handed throwing Shields has posted eight straight seasons with at least 30 starts made, 200 innings pitched, at least 160 strikeouts and double-digit wins. Shields has produced 249 1/3 innings, 227 2/3, 228 2/3 and 227 innings in each of the last four years, respectively. That sort of durability has left "Big Game James" as one of the crown jewels of the upcoming free agent market.

Part of that reason for Shields' on-field excellence can be attributed to help from his cousin. Shields was having arm troubles and couldn't stay healthy coming through the Minors, missing the entire '02 season because of right shoulder surgery. So, Rowand got his cousin involved with an intense offseason workout program in Las Vegas, run at Tim Soder Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation, where Rowand was a charter participant in rehabbing the severe injuries suffered in a dirt bike accident from November, '02.

Shields told MLB.com in late September that he showed up a minute late for the first workout session, always beginning at 6 a.m., and Rowand told him to go home and not embarrass him, because it wasn't the work ethic they had there. When asked about that story, Rowand laughed and said, "That was pretty much word for word."

On one occasion, Rowand remembers Shields and a friend from the Rays' organization had enjoyed a night out in Las Vegas, but Shields slept in his car in the parking lot at Soder's facility to avoid being late for the workout. Shields eventually became the individual leading the offseason workouts for pitchers and showing the new guys the ropes at Soder's facility before he moved to Florida after going through those workouts for three offseasons.

"I'm not taking any responsibility because he's the one who put in the time and effort," said Rowand of Shields, who he keeps in steady contact with and played golf with in Las Vegas during a Shields' off-day last month. "He has one of the best work ethics of anyone I've ever been around in this game.

"He has done so well, and I think a lot of his success can be attributed to how hard he worked in the offseason. You can tell by his lack of arm injuries. He's in great shape. After those first couple of Minor League seasons, he started staying healthy, his velocity went up. He's a true talent, a true workhorse. I'm super pumped for where he is now."

This 32-year-old true talent and workhorse has made one previous World Series start and defeated the Phillies in '08. That Tampa team ultimately lost in five games.

Kansas City stands as a bit of a surprise entrant in the Fall Classic, although not to everyone. It was White Sox captain Paul Konerko who said during his retirement weekend that the '14 Royals featured similar elements as the '05 White Sox, and Rowand agrees with that assessment.

"Look at how it has gone for them: They have all the tools to go and compete on any given night. Speed and defense doesn't ever go in slumps," Rowand said. "And when you play that many close games during the course of a season, you don't tighten up, you don't get nervous. You are used to being in those situations. A calmness comes over you in those situations.

"We played so many close baseball games (in '05) that you tend to get used to that at the end of games with the game on the line. You don't get out of your element. You do what you are supposed to do."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Following same path as '59 White Sox, KC eyes title

Royals hope to pick up World Series win that eluded 'Go-Go Sox'

Following same path as '59 White Sox, KC eyes title

KANSAS CITY -- Fifty-five years have passed since Jim McAnany stepped into the batter's box at Comiskey Park to face Johnny Podres, with the World Series spotlight shining on him. He hasn't forgotten how dry his mouth was as he dug his spikes into the dirt.

"My first time up, my legs were shaking," McAnany said. "But once you get past that, the next time you pretty well settle in and play the game. The only thing I prayed for was not to make a mistake that hurt our team."

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McAnany played right field for the 1959 White Sox, who closely resemble this year's Royals.

  Date Air time First pitch Matchup Network
Gm 1 Oct. 21 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 2 Oct. 22 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 3 Oct. 24 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 4 Oct. 25 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 5* Oct. 26 7:30 ET 8:07 ET KC vs. SF FOX
Gm 6* Oct. 28 7 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Gm 7* Oct. 29 7:30 ET 8:07 ET SF vs. KC FOX
Like the Royals, who are meeting the Giants in the World Series, the so-called "Go-Go Sox" were built around speed and defense. They had finished 10 games above .500 the year before, exactly like the Royals, and found a winning formula that included a deep starting rotation and the best bullpen in their league.

That recipe for success did not include hitting home runs in volume, as they finished last in the American League in that category. These 2014 Royals are the first American League team since the Go-Go Sox to qualify for the postseason after finishing last in the league in homers.

Billy Pierce, a left-hander whose No. 19 has been retired by the White Sox, was the leader of Al Lopez's pitching staff. He retired in the Chicago area and still attends a lot of games. He was at U.S. Cellular Field on Sept. 26, when Ned Yost's Royals clinched their Wild Card spot with a 3-1 win in typically efficient fashion.

"They did things during the year that you could see they weren't done when they got behind," Pierce said. "That happened with us in '59. It was just one of those things. Good year, things fell right, the ball bounced right. You have to be a little bit fortunate with a round bat and a round ball. Things went right for us; things went right for Kansas City."

Hall of Famers Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox were the White Sox's double-play combination, and center fielder Jim Landis played Gold Glove defense. They routinely took outs away from their opponents, as do the Royals, whose defensive strength lies in outfielders Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson.

Like Gordon, Landis began his career as a third baseman, but the White Sox had a need in center field and Lopez suggested he give it a try.

McAnany says Landis was "a reindeer out there," covering ground that helped left fielder Al Smith and the right-field platoon of McAnany and "Jungle" Jim Rivera. Landis still marvels at some of the plays that Aparicio made at shortstop.

"I've seen Luis make plays I couldn't believe," said Landis, 80, who lives in Napa, Calif. "I was backing him up, and I'm standing there flabbergasted. 'He got to that ball! My God!' Luis was terrific. I'm not knocking Nellie. They were both terrific."

Landis has been impressed watching the Royals, but believes his team was better defensively. McAnany agrees, but Pierce says it's splitting hairs. He sees a lot of his old team in the Royals.

"Speed, defense, pitching, those three things add up to a pretty good ballclub," said Pierce, 87, who lives in Naperville, Ill. "If you don't lose many games, you're going to win a lot of games. Some teams, you lose the ballgame, it isn't that the other team always wins it. Kansas City didn't make too many errors, played good ball most of the year. We were like that. But they scored more runs than we did. They've come up with some good innings [in the postseason] that have carried them through."

In 1959, the White Sox finished sixth out of eight teams in the AL with 4.3 runs per game, stealing a league-high 113 bases (more than twice the league average) while hitting a league-low 97 home runs. The Royals were ninth in the AL with an average of 4.0 runs per game. They led the league with 153 stolen bases and were last in baseball with 95 home runs.

There's another common thread between the teams. Both did the best job of contact hitting in the league, with their hitters last in the league in strikeouts. Fox, who never struck out more than 18 times in any of his 19 seasons, epitomized that approach.

"If you put the ball in play, good results will happen," Landis said. "That's the key -- put the ball in play. You have to do that."

General Manager Dayton Moore's trades helped Kansas City get here. The biggest may have been the deal that brought Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar from the Brewers for Zack Greinke, but it was a deal that sent Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for James Shields that gets the most attention.

Shields was the Royals' workhorse with 227 innings, going 14-8, and will start Game 1 against the Giants on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET airtime/8:07 ET first pitch, FOX). The Go-Go Sox had their version of him in Early Wynn, who was acquired from Cleveland along with Smith in a 1958 trade for Minnie Minoso.

While Fox was as the AL's MVP in 1959, Wynn finished third. He was at the end of his Hall of Fame career, straining to reach 300 wins, but went 22-10 and threw 14 complete games for Lopez, replacing Pierce as the most reliable starter.

"When you look at Early's year, he had a fantastic year," Pierce said. "The year before and the year after were so-so. But that year everything went right for Early. … Now Minnie was a great ballplayer for the White Sox for many, many years. But it just so happened that year Early was a key [player]. He turned out to be a very good player for that year, and we got Minnie back a couple years later."

When the World Series starts on Tuesday, the upstart Royals will face a Giants team that has won nine consecutive postseason series, including the 2010 and '12 World Series. The Go-Go Sox were facing an arguably more formidable powerhouse, as the 1959 Dodgers were going to the World Series for the seventh time in a span of 13 seasons.

Like these Royals, the White Sox were a confident group, and that confidence increased greatly when they won Game 1 of the Series, 11-0, with late-season addition Ted Kluszewski hitting two homers. They took a 2-0 lead in the second inning of Game 2, but from that point on were outscored 21-10, with the Dodgers winning the Series in six games.

Walter Alston's pitching staff featured Don Drysdale, Roger Craig and 23-year-old lefty Sandy Koufax, who opened the World Series in the bullpen before starting Game 5, which Bob Shaw won for the White Sox 1-0.

"Oh, man," McAnany, 78, said at the mention of Koufax. "The funniest thing was I had taken the count to 2-2 and he threw me a pitch that was wide of the plate, made it 3-2. All the guys said, 'Look for the fastball, he's not about to throw you a curve.' With that he throws a 3-2 curveball that drops off the table. I went back in the dugout, I said, 'Fastball my rear end.' He was something else. They don't get any better than him."

If the Running Royals are going to succeed against the Giants, according to their soulmates on the '59 Sox, they're going to have to do a good job getting on base. The Go-Go Sox held a speed advantage over the Dodgers, but wound up stealing only two bases while Los Angeles swiped five, including one by rookie shortstop Maury Wills.

"Let me put it this way," Landis said. "No matter how fast you run, you got to get on base. We had a little problem with that, really. Most times it worked, but against the Dodgers we just didn't get on base enough."

Another lesson learned the hard way by the Go-Go Sox: Beware the sneak attack.

While Drysdale, Podres and Koufax were the arms that the White Sox feared, it was pitching depth that carried the day in the Series. Larry Sherry, a 24-year-old right-hander who hadn't yet thrown 100 Major League innings, worked 12 2/3 innings out of the bullpen for the Dodgers, earning two wins and two saves.

"I hate that name," Landis said, laughing. "He was fabulous. He did one heck of a job. He was tough, period. I guess you could say he was their most valuable player, really."

Do the Giants have their own Larry Sherry waiting to cool off the Royals? Maybe Yusmeiro Petit? Maybe the well-rested Tim Lincecum?

Like Landis said, you've got to get on base to use your speed. The Royals have done that well enough to go 8-0 in the postseason. But the biggest challenge lies in getting the next four.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Sox coaches get to know young players in Glendale

Chicago looks to create sense of continuity in organization with visits

Sox coaches get to know young players in Glendale

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper came from Nashville, joined by bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen last week at the team's Camelback Ranch complex in Arizona. Hitting coach Todd Steverson made the drive from Ahwatukee, Ariz., which, despite being 23.4 miles from Glendale, can seem as long as that flight from Tennessee depending on Phoenix Valley traffic.

Instructional league action, and the start of the Arizona Fall League, for that matter, doesn't usually feature the White Sox Major League coaches in attendance. But this rebuilding stretch is a different feel for the organization as it moves toward what it hopes is a '15 playoff berth, with important contributions figuring to come from younger players.

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"The goal is not to get everyone on the same page, because everyone is on the same page," Cooper said late last week. "I'm out here to enjoy the guys and just kind of watch. We watch guys throw and then we come up with a plan for each guy, and we don't care whether it's a first-round pick or 101st round pick. When you get with the White Sox, we are going to give you the best we got."

"We want to be a strong organization, top to bottom, and have everybody understand what our philosophy is going forward from [Class] A ball all the way up to the big leagues," Steverson said. "And the continuity in which we put the players in -- and you learn the same things that the big league guys are and it's no different. It's understanding the process in which it takes to go from the Minors to the big leagues. Just reinforce the program of what we are trying to do."

Steverson, Cooper and Thigpen were joined by general manager Rick Hahn, executive vice president Ken Williams, assistant general manager Buddy Bell and assistant to the general manager Jeremy Haber for the final week of instructional league action. Some of the team's exceptional Minor League staff, led by director of player development Nick Capra, Minor League field coordinator Kirk Champion and assistant director of player development and scouting Del Matthews, had been in Glendale since the Sept. 18 start of instructs.

Spring Training allows the Major League side to get a look at some of the young players, whether it's through non-roster invitees, Cactus League game callups or Minor League side sessions. But the Major League staff being in Arizona for a short time presents a sense of synergy for the players as well as the coaches.

"As much as it's a long season for those Major League guys, I know that Steverson is out here, Coop and Thiggy both being out here, and players feel energy they bring being at the Major League level and coming out and spending some time in instructional league," Champion said. "That helps our players understand that we are all tied together and they get a chance to get an edge. They get a better feel for what some of these guys are and put a face to a name."

"When you are at this level and instructional league is 90 some degrees and you got your big league pitching coach and your big league hitting coach to come out here and say, 'We care about everybody. You are not alone on an island. You won't meet me just when you get to big league camp,'" Steverson said. "Building relationships is part of this game. The more I see, the better I know you and understand who you are going forward in your career."

Major League coaches such as Cooper, Steverson and Thigpen receive in-season reports about countless Minor League individual players. But as Champion pointed out, "they can tighten that up by seeing them in person," with Cooper and Steverson holding meetings with the pitchers and hitters, respectively, during their Arizona stretch.

A pitcher such as David Trexler, selected in the 17th round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, or a hitter such as infielder Jake Peter, taken in the seventh round of that same Draft, won't be helping the White Sox in '15. A pitcher such as Frank Montas, working in this year's AFL, could be there sooner than later. Regardless of the respective timetables, getting a direct look, albeit a short one, can help the organization as a whole most accurately lay out players' potential big league paths.

"I want to see [Andrew] Mitchell. I want to see [Brandon] Brennan. I want to see [Braulio] Ortiz. I want to see all those guys. We have a lot of really good arms. I want to get to know them more and put names with the faces," Cooper said. "I want to let them know we are watching everything you do, we care about everything you do. We are watching it from a positive eye, not a negative eye.

"Listen, I don't have that answer yet with these guys down here. They have just started the process. At some point in time, we are looking for a lot of these guys to put themselves in a position to help us in Chicago.

"What I'm saying is out there, some of you guys might be here the next year or the year after. I don't know who it is," Cooper said. "But you'll show us who is ready to handle that job description by what you do. That's what the Minor Leagues are about -- develop and get ready, and be as prepared as you can be when you enter the doors in Chicago."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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White Sox prospect Anderson flashes skills

Shortstop goes 3-for-4 with double, stolen base in Glendale win

White Sox prospect Anderson flashes skills

Entering Tuesday, Glendale hadn't won in a week. Since its victory on Opening Day in the Arizona Fall League last Tuesday against Mesa, it had endured a rainout, a three-game losing streak and a tie after 11 innings against Peoria on Monday.

Glendale snapped out of its doldrums Tuesday night, combining solid pitching with an explosive offense to rout Peoria, 9-0.

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Shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox No. 2 prospect, said it felt good to get back in the win column.

"Getting around the guys and getting to know them, they all are great guys," he said. "We're coming together and growing as a team."

Anderson, ranked No. 82 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs and a stolen base. He is hitting .375/.412/.438 with two stolen bases in five games this fall.

Anderson was the 17th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and is completing his first full professional season in the AFL. Despite spending two months on the disabled list after he was hit by a pitch and broke his right wrist in June, he reached Double-A Birmingham and hit .301/.327/.481 in 83 games across three levels during the regular season.

Tuesday, Anderson batted second for the Desert Dogs and helped them jump out to an early lead. Glendale scored a run in the first and added two more in the third before breaking the game open with six runs in the seventh.

The Desert Dogs did all of their damage with two outs in the seventh, sending 10 batters to the plate and pounding out five hits. The biggest blow belonged to right fielder Steven Moya, who cleared the bases with a three-run triple off right-hander Zach Cooper.

"Everybody was locked in at the plate," said Anderson, who singled and scored in the inning. "Everybody was seeing the ball real good."

Moya, the Tigers' No. 7 prospect, finished the game 2-for-5 with a run and four RBIs. Designated hitter Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect and No. 13 on the Top 100, went 1-for-4 with a double, a walk, a run and an RBI.

Working with a lead from the start Tuesday, the Desert Dogs pitching staff effectively silenced the Javelinas bats, holding them to three hits -- all singles. Right-hander Matt Magill started for Glendale and threw three hitless innings. He struck out three batters, walked two and threw 44 pitches.

Magill has held opponents to two unearned runs on two hits in 5 2/3 innings over two appearances this fall.

"He came out and competed," Anderson said. "He has a strong arm and he did great."

Right-hander Tyler Wagner relieved Magill to start the fourth, but the no-hitter soon ended. But Wagner, the Brewers' No. 14 prospect, and four other relievers combined for six scoreless innings to complete the shutout.

Left fielder Jordan Smith went 2-for-3 to lead Peoria's offense. Catcher Cody Stanley collected the Javelinas other hit.

After their slow start to the season, Anderson and the Desert Dogs are hoping for more wins like Tuesday's. But for players in the AFL, development remains the primary goal. Anderson said he's working on his defense this fall, as well as trying to take as many quality at-bats as he can.

A week into the fall, Anderson said he has been impressed by the quality of the players in the league.

"It's great competition," Anderson said. "There are a lot of great pitchers. It's very competitive."

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Alexei a proven vet, but Sox have shortstop options

Chicago boasts infield depth in system, including Anderson, Rondon

Alexei a proven vet, but Sox have shortstop options

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For the upcoming offseason, you now are White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. And one major question to be dealt with centers on what should be done with shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

The answer appears to be simple. Ramirez is one of the White Sox most seasoned veterans and most accomplished players in the mix for the 2015 roster. His '14 performance put him in contention for the American League Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards.

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But here's an interesting counterpoint to that Ramirez excellence. With his contract calling for $10 million next season and a $10 million team option for 2016, the All-Star emerges as one of the team's most valuable trade chips.

That thought gets squelched, though, when plans arise for the White Sox becoming a postseason contender as soon as next season. There seems to be no real reason to send away a 33-year-old entering his eighth year, especially when said player works out to a 162-game .277 average, 29 doubles, 15 homers, 73 RBIs and 18 stolen bases, as well as a career 21.2 bWAR. And with 158 games played in each of the last four seasons and 156 played in '10, make no mistake that Ramirez arrives ready to play every day.

Another point of concern with a Ramirez departure is the replacement for a potential middle-infield void. Whereas the White Sox have Micah Johnson, Marcus Semien and Carlos Sanchez ready to assume the position once held by Gordon Beckham at second, the same isn't necessarily true at shortstop. That assumption might not be completely accurate, as the following bit of information shows.

If not Ramirez, then who plays shortstop? The answer might be surprising, in that Tyler Saladino sort of fell off the prospect map for a bit and had his '14 season prematurely ended by Tommy John surgery. Saladino, 25, also hit .310 with nine homers, 43 RBIs and an .850 OPS over 82 games for Triple-A Charlotte, of which 50 were at shortstop.

"We moved him around, but shortstop might be his best position," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra of Saladino. "He had a heckuva year."

This right-handed hitting, seventh-round pick from the 2010 First-Year Player Draft is expected to be healthy by the start of Spring Training.

"He could have been in the picture without that injury at the end of the year," Capra said. "He really blossomed this year for me. Unfortunately, he did get hurt."

How close is Tim Anderson? After missing time due to a right wrist fracture, the athletic No. 2 White Sox prospect per MLB.com is getting important at-bats and playing time with Glendale in the Arizona Fall League. Anderson hit .301 with nine homers, seven triples, 40 RBIs and 10 stolen bases over three '14 stops, including Double-A Birmingham.

His 34 errors committed in 2014 and 53 through 144 professional games at shortstop haven't given the White Sox cause to consider a position change for Anderson.

"Tim has to play his way out of shortstop," said Capra, pointing out that 2014 was Anderson's first full year and that he's getting better with the more he plays. "A lot of his errors are just silly mistakes, a lot of throwing errors where he's just not setting his feet. Hopefully he catches on and catches on quickly."

"Yeah, this is my spot," said Anderson of shortstop. "It's going to be my spot. It's just how I feel. I still had a pretty good year, but I still have a lot of work to do."

Anderson also had 82 strikeouts and nine walks over 362 plate appearances in '14. But again, the White Sox are hoping that his strike zone gets better with repetition.

Could Semien handle the role? Semien's versatility, which had him playing 31 games at third and 26 at second for the White Sox, included just three games at shortstop in 2014. That number becomes understandable playing behind Ramirez, but Semien actually played 42 games at shortstop for Charlotte with a 4.33 range factor per game according to baseball-reference.com.

"I'm not sure if it's an everyday position he can play. I think he can fill in for a week, 10 days," said Capra of Semien at shortstop. "I'm not sure long term.

"At the lower levels, we moved [Semien] around like a superutility guy. It's a bonus to have. He's a manager's delight."

Who is Cleuluis Rondon? Aside from having an interesting first name to spell and pronounce, Rondon is the best defensive shortstop in the entire organization behind Ramirez. Rondon hit .238 with 16 stolen bases between stops at Class A Winston-Salem and Class A Kannapolis, and his offense basically dictates how high he can climb.

"I think he's the best shortstop I've seen in my life," said White Sox Minor League hurler Frank Montas, who was acquired with Rondon from Boston as part of the 2013 Jake Peavy deal. "Great hands, a great player."

"Based on his defensive ability alone, he'll have a big league career," said Hahn of the 20-year-old Rondon. "It's a question of how far will the bat take him in terms of an everyday role. Another young kid with a plus-plus defensive tool and plus baseball awareness."

So Ramirez stays or goes? Much-needed middle infield depth now exists in the system, including 24-year-old Olympic-speed-skater-turned-shortstop-prospect Eddy Alvarez. But even with very few White Sox players deemed as untouchable, the asking price would be extremely high for a key cog such as Ramirez.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Konerko embraces silence of retirement

Former White Sox captain happy to no longer be in spotlight

Konerko embraces silence of retirement

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If there was a song needed to go with the retirement of Paul Konerko, it easily could be "The Sounds of Silence" by Paul Simon.

That particular theme becomes hard to pull off when you live in a house with three children under the age of 10. But as far as baseball is concerned, it fits perfectly for the former White Sox captain.

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Konerko not only stood as the face of the White Sox franchise for the past decade or so. He also was the voice.

There were too many times to remember or add up when Konerko spoke with the media before and after games. When the home clubhouse was open after batting practice for a short time, Konerko would talk then too. Even in those few games where Konerko didn't play during his prime, he still sometimes would be an interview subject.

If someone wanted to know the White Sox inner-workings, if someone wanted to get an astute, detailed depiction or assessment of the team, they went to Konerko. But those pieces of baseball wisdom disappeared until further notice with Konerko's final postgame interview at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center on Sept. 28.

"It's not something I need to see my name in the paper or want that," Konerko told MLB.com during an interview prior to his retirement. "If I never do another interview, it's fine with me. That would be a good goal, actually. There's no need for it anymore."

Bypassing the media won't last quite as long as Konerko hoped.

His No. 14 is scheduled to be retired at some point during the 2015 season, which figures to require a speech in front of a large crowd at U.S. Cellular, not to mention a few moments of press reflection. And the White Sox will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the '05 World Series championship, meaning the ALCS MVP and the man who launched the Game 2 grand slam off Chad Qualls will be a necessary and required attendee and speaking participant.

Spending in the neighborhood of 5-to-10 minutes per day talking about the team or even his individual accomplishments wasn't a favorite part of the job for the 18-year-veteran. But it was a part Konerko understood and embraced.

"I always felt like you should be at your locker before the game right around [pregame]. Then you should be at your locker after the game to answer any questions about the game," Konerko said. "I feel that's part of being a big league player, and unfortunately there are things that come along with the job that are part of the job.

"After that, I don't feel any obligation. I feel like that's where it kind of ends for me. I do think as a big league player you have those two responsibilities to be there. And it's just a progression."

Progression, as in, Konerko wasn't the go-to man when he first arrived in the big leagues or even when he first arrived with the White Sox. That job came over time, as he became an accomplished player and an accomplished leader. His words not only represented the White Sox but often alleviated pressure for other players who might have been struggling, with Konerko taking on the attention.

This media connection also points up a theme Konerko discussed many times during his final season: someone else soon will come along to take his place. It's simply the nature of the sport.

"You leave and somebody else steps in. It's going to go on just like everything else in the game," Konerko said. "There have been a lot of great people way better than I have that have played. Derek Jeter, there will be somebody playing shortstop next year for the Yankees.

"In all those situations, whether you are talking about the interview stuff, there's always going to be people coming and going. I've had a pretty good handle to give it its due respect. But this is not so much because of me. It's because of the position I'm in. I'm just keeping it warm."

Aside from speaking during those few aforementioned moments, Konerko's only baseball talk in the immediately future probably will come within his family.

"I've always felt like I got treated fairly," Konerko said. "There were a couple of instances where I could remember something turning into something that was totally wrong. But considering how many I've done, I feel like I've always been treated fairly. I gave them a good answer and tried to stay as cliché-free as I could.

"That's part of the gig to do those things. I can't see a situation where it would be needed. Maybe in some sort of charitable way, trying to promote something, but other than that, I'm done and there's no need for my input about baseball anymore."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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White Sox hitting coach marvels at Abreu's rookie year

White Sox hitting coach marvels at Abreu's rookie year

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Abreu's incredible 2014 Major League debut soon should be recognized with the American League Rookie of the Year honor.

It also took just this one campaign for the 27-year-old Abreu to establish himself as a White Sox franchise cornerstone.

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"Obviously, he's dangerous," White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson told MLB.com of Abreu, during a break from watching Instructional League action at the White Sox Camelback Ranch complex. "So, when you got a hitter in your lineup that is truly dangerous like he is, and has the ability to be a hitter also, then it becomes, 'What do we put around a guy like that?'

"He's already proven that he has the ability to do these things up here. If he can repeat, which is probably one of the hardest things for him going forward, I don't want to say prove it, but you [aren't a] secret. So having the mentality of trying to repeat that and having people around him that allow him to get back to what he did this year is key."

Abreu topped all big league hitters with his .581 slugging percentage and finished second to Victor Martinez with a .964 OPS. His 36 homers set a White Sox single-season rookie record and left Abreu tied for third with Mike Trout in the AL. His 107 RBIs placed Abreu fourth, and his .317 batting average ranked him fifth in the AL.

The balance in these numbers supported a fact that quickly became evident as his 145 games played progressed: Abreu was a complete offensive force, and not just a slugger. After hitting 25 homers through June, bringing up talk of maybe even reaching 50 in his inaugural campaign, Abreu hit 11 total over the final three months.

Of those 11 homers, two came in August, three came in September and only three were hit from Aug. 23 to the end of the season. There's no question the first crack at an 162-game schedule took its toll on Abreu, but even when he was struggling with power, Abreu hit .374 in July, .376 in August and .298 in September.

Steverson pointed out that opposing teams understood Abreu as the player to avoid in the White Sox lineup, so he wasn't getting the same pitches to hit. With a wry smile, Steverson added that Abreu also brought upon himself that late-season concern.

"In my opinion, he put those words in everybody's mouth," Steverson said. "If he was hitting .275 with 25 homers or he ended up with .275 and 25 and he wasn't .300 with leading the league in homers and all the rest of it, there's not a person in baseball that would have been like, 'Oh, that wasn't good.'

"So, what he had done in the first half forced everybody to say, 'Well, how much more can we get out of this?' Truth of the matter was he was good just right then. If he had stopped the season right then at the break, it was satisfying for what we had picked up. He put the expectations on himself by what he did."

Along with the powerful on-field results, Abreu proved to be of high-quality character and a tireless worker who followed a specific daily routine. Steverson isn't worried about Abreu immediately continuing that routine in the offseason, explaining that he was pretty "dusted" by the season's end.

That plan isn't strenuous, as much as it's detailed. But Abreu adjusted in-season, including dealing with the media clamor as the team's top player.

"People are tugging at him, and you can't just go in the cage any time you want," Steverson said. "Somebody needs to talk to you over here. You got an interview at this time. Balancing that in between going out and playing is what I think he really had to get used to this year."

"At first it was a little difficult for me because I'm not used to this," said Abreu of his media dealings through interpreter Julio Vinas during a season-ending interview. "Sometimes it would catch me off guard and I wasn't comfortable and maybe I would make a bad face every now and then, but it was nothing personal. It was just something for me to get used to and learn."

There's not much for the White Sox to learn about Abreu. They simply have to supplement and protect his production during this upcoming offseason.

"He has a winning attitude, and he wants to win," said Steverson of Abreu. "Hopefully, we get the pieces we need around him and everybody else.

"[Adam] Eaton has done a really good job. Conor [Gillaspie] came out and did some good stuff. Having Avi [Garcia] get those at-bats at the end of the year was good. Knowing that you have these pieces going forward gives you a brighter thought for the future."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Alvarez's Olympic success helping him rise as shortstop

Sox prospect, a silver medalist in speed skating, is used to heavy training, tight schedules

Alvarez's Olympic success helping him rise as shortstop

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ask Eddy Alvarez what sort of professional baseball player he envisions becoming, and the 5-foot-9, 175-pound switch-hitter smiles and defers his response to a later date.

"I have no idea who I am yet. I really don't," said Alvarez with a laugh, speaking before a White Sox Instructional League contest Tuesday in Goodyear against a Reds affiliate. "Some days I'll get a couple of singles, and the next day I'll hit two home runs. Anything to produce runs and help my team win, that's what I want to be."

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Here's what we know about Alvarez:

He's an incredible athlete with great baseball instincts, despite not being part of the game since playing for Salt Lake Community College in 2011. There was a little bit of uncertainty as to whether Alvarez had the arm strength to play shortstop, but those concerns were quickly erased by his defensive play for the Arizona Rookie League White Sox and Class A Kannapolis this past season.

The outgoing and energetic 24-year-old, who turns 25 in three months, also has a unique notch in his belt; he won a silver medal in the 5000 meter short track speed skating relay during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. His plan all along was to leave the short-track world after the Olympics and move on to baseball.

After working out for Mike Gellinger, the White Sox Arizona Rookie League manager and former big league assistant hitting coach, the organization quickly signed Alvarez on June 11.

"There were other looks. I talked to other scouts and what not," Alvarez said. "I told myself I was going to sign the first contract I saw. And the White Sox were there."

"First of all, it's a great story," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn of Alvarez. "It's a real impressive testament to him and his resolve and his desire to play the game, that despite his successes in another field, he was willing to start really from the bottom with open tryouts and then extended and rookie ball. Beyond that, it's also a pretty impressive accomplishment as well as he performed last year."

Over 45 games between the Arizona Rookie League and Kannapolis, Alvarez hit .346 with a .433 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage and nine stolen bases. He profiles as a top-of-the-order sort of talent, but after going deep against the Korean team NC Dinos during Monday's Instructional League action in Peoria, Ariz., Alvarez showed there's some extra-base pop in his bat as well.

When questioned about his age -- slightly older than most prospects -- Alvarez speaks about being "young at heart" and "playing like a young guy." The truth is that Alvarez looks young from any point of view and, most importantly, he strives to improve every day.

"We saw [Alvarez] really good in Kannapolis the last couple of weeks there," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra. "With our first-year kids, you see that in all of them, they get tired at this stage with Instructional League. You see wear and tear is hitting him a little bit. But he has shown a lot of good things for us. We are excited."

"Every day I'm learning something. It's incredible," Alvarez said. "I didn't think I could do that, but I really do. The coaches have so much to offer. The scheduling is awesome, it really is. It kind of reminds me of the schedule I had in training with skating. It was tight, but run extremely well and professional."

Players often come to Spring Training claiming to be in the best shape of their lives. Alvarez easily and accurately could have made that comment when his mentor, Carlos Castillo, brought him to the White Sox open tryout. Castillo is a friend and former teammate of Nick Alvarez, Eddy's brother and a Dodgers' Minor Leaguer from 2000-06.

Workouts as part of his Olympic Training were typically "six-to-eight hours per day, six days per week, 11 months of the year." They were grueling endeavors that taught Alvarez a great deal. He has incorporated some of those lessons into the world of baseball.

"Just being able to transition that to my baseball career, it's fun. This is almost easy," said a smiling Alvarez. "We did a lot of cross training. We were cycling, running, doing weights. A lot of that lower base build, I was able to bring that to the baseball world, and I rely a lot on my lower half in my swing. The torque, the load and being able to control my timing, it has actually helped me immensely."

"This was an excellent debut season. He did a great job," said Hahn of Alvarez, who figures to start '15 at Class A Winston-Salem. "Our PD [player development] did a great job with the transition and next year, when he enters the year knowing what to expect, we'll get a truer read in terms of what his upside is, what his ceiling is."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Improved White Sox take important step in 2014

Highlighted by talented new faces, Chicago made strides in solid year

Improved White Sox take important step in 2014

CHICAGO -- The 2014 White Sox presented a noticeably improved overall version from what was on the field in '13.

It actually would be difficult not to move upward and forward from that previous 99-loss debacle, but there was real progress made under the ongoing reshaping process spearheaded by general manager Rick Hahn. Yet, better certainly doesn't qualify as nearly good enough for Hahn and the organization.

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"This is an important offseason in our process," said Hahn during a recent interview, melding the present gains with the future goals. "We've known this was going to be a multiyear process for us from the start.

"Obviously we were pleased with some of the things we were able to do in the first year. But at the same time it's readily apparent there are still other items that need to be addressed."

Hahn spoke back in Spring Training of the desire to build that consistent postseason contender, put up against the desire to never simply give away a season as part of a rebuild. Hahn also used the phrase "fool's gold" in analyzing whether a potential '14 contender was for real and worthy of supplementing the cause in-season, or staying the course under the reshaping plan and differentiating between a team with a modicum of success that probably wasn't a true playoff threat.

There were great moments for the '14 White Sox, topped off by the season-ending celebration recognizing Paul Konerko's illustrious career, stretches where they actually looked in the realm of a long-shot threat for Wild Card contention. But even when the team was hovering around .500, Hahn knew of the shortcomings at the back end of the rotation and in the bullpen, not to mention the significant injury voids left by outfielder Avisail Garcia and relievers Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom.

Jose Abreu, the rookie free agent who came from Cuba to the White Sox via a six-year, $68-million deal, emerged as such a powerhouse that he deserves a '14 plus column all his own. The first baseman not only was a power threat and run-producing threat, but finished with an average well over .300. Abreu, the player and the person, far exceeded expectations, and the White Sox had high expectations prior to his arrival. The White Sox also found a leadoff man to spark their lineup and a solid center fielder to anchor their defense in Adam Eaton, while getting continued top-flight starting performances from All-Star Chris Sale, and under-the-radar excellence from Jose Quintana.

Ultimately, this season stands as just one step of apparently many needed by the White Sox to get to where they want to be. It's a significant step nonetheless, enhanced by individual excellence.

"We knew coming in that this was still a rebuilding, retooling, reshaping, whatever word you want to say," pitching coach Don Cooper said. "It doesn't stop us from coming every day, wanting and trying to win.

"We are in a much better place. The addition of Abreu alone, let alone Eaton, let alone Avi, who we missed a lot this year. ... Big positives."

Record: 73-89, fourth in the American League Central.

Defining moment: On April 25, with the White Sox trailing, 6-5, and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, a star was born. Abreu connected for an opposite-field, walk-off grand slam off of Rays closer Grant Balfour and a 9-6 victory. The arrival of Abreu as a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat and a soon-to-be clubhouse leader supersedes pretty much anything else that happened this past season. On the negative side, an eighth-inning Oswaldo Arcia double off the glove of left fielder Alejandro De Aza via a catchable drive turned a potential seventh win in nine games into a brutal late-game, 8-6, loss to end July. Any remote White Sox playoff hopes were dashed by a 9-19 August to follow.

What went right:

• Abreu became a first-time All-Star and, as a player ranking in the Top 6 among all three Triple Crown categories, stands as the odds-on favorite as AL Rookie of the Year.

• Despite missing just over a month from April 18 to May 22 with a flexor muscle strain, Sale still put up Cy Young caliber numbers.

• Quintana continued to form a formidable one-two combination with Sale at the top of the rotation.

• A healthy Tyler Flowers added offensive production, albeit not season-long consistency, to his exceptional handling of the pitching staff.

Conor Gillaspie asserted himself as the team's third baseman for '15 with an improved showing offensively and defensively

• Carlos Rodon fell to the White Sox at No. 3 overall in the First-Year Player Draft, with Rodon possibly joining the '15 rotation out of Spring Training.

• Hahn was able to free up money and obtain potential future help in the trades of Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn and De Aza, three veterans who were not part of the team's future.

Alexei Ramirez bounced back from a sub-par '13 by his standards with a performance worthy of Gold Glove and Silver Slugger consideration.

Hector Noesi found a home at the back end of the rotation with the White Sox, who were his third team of the season.

• Garcia, whose left shoulder injury suffered on April 9 was deemed to be season-ending, returned on Aug. 16.

Zach Putnam went from non-roster invitee to co-closer by season's end

• Konerko completed his 16-year-run in Chicago as one of the most respected players in franchise history

• Frank Thomas became a Hall of Fame inductee as part of an historic six-person class in Cooperstown.

What went wrong:

• Erik Johnson and Felipe Paulino struggled mightily at the back end of the rotation and were both replaced by late April.

• Garcia missed four months due to a torn labrum and avulsion fracture suffered while diving for a ball in right field April 9 in Colorado.

• Jones never really threw a healthy pitch due to back issues and now could miss most of next year after having Tommy John Surgery

• Injuries to Jones and Lindstrom threw the bullpen into disarray and made it an overall weak spot.

• Beckham, the team's top pick in the '08 First-Year Player Draft, was moved to the Angels after an especially rough offensive stretch.

Biggest surprise: Eaton. It's hard to call Eaton a pure surprise, considering he had posted exceptional numbers at the Minor League level with Arizona. But the left-handed hitter proved to not only be a much-needed presence at the top of the lineup, but a strong, gritty overall player.

Hitter of the Year: Abreu. With all due respect to Eaton, Ramirez and/or Gillaspie, there's really no debate on this topic. Abreu is a man with a plan at the plate, and a man who executed that plan more often than not.

Pitcher of the Year: Sale. He ended up with a career-low 26 starts and less than 180 innings pitched. He also topped 200 strikeouts for a second straight year and laid claim to being the game's top left-handed starter not named Clayton Kershaw.

Rookie of the Year: Abreu. He carries himself like a 10-year-veteran, but Abreu will be rightfully honored as a first-year success.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Third-base coach McEwing to interview for D-backs job

Third-base coach McEwing to interview for D-backs job

CHICAGO -- Add Joe McEwing to the growing list of the D-backs' managerial candidates, a job that opened up when Kirk Gibson was removed from the position.

The D-backs announced via Twitter on Wednesday that they received permission to interview the current White Sox third-base coach.

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McEwing, who turns 42 this month, recently finished his third season as the third-base coach and seventh season overall in the White Sox organization. He previously served as hitting coach for Triple-A Charlotte (2008) and has managerial experience from stints at Class A Winston-Salem (2009-10) and Charlotte (2011).

Tony La Russa, the Diamondbacks chief baseball officer, managed McEwing, known as Super Joe, in St. Louis in '98 and '99. The latter was arguably the best season of McEwing's nine-year-career. McEwing was interviewed for the Cardinals' managerial vacancy when La Russa retired after the 2011 campaign, a job that ultimately went to Mike Matheny.

When asked about the D-backs job recently, McEwing said that he was simply focused on his tasks at hand and helping the White Sox win. But general manager Rick Hahn, in his season-ending interview with the media Sunday, sounded as if he expected outside interest in the White Sox coaching staff.

"We might lose some to these potential job openings, so we'll have to see how things unfold over the next several weeks," said Hahn of the coaching staff. "[White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura] and I still need to sit down and have some conversations internally, but we'll have to see if we get plucked and adjust accordingly."

Sandy Alomar Jr., Jay Bell, Andy Green, Phil Nevin, Jim Tracy and Turner Ward are the other managerial candidates the D-backs have announced.

Worth noting

• Left-handed pitcher Frank De Los Santos was outrighted by the White Sox to Charlotte, leaving the 40-man roster at 39. De Los Santos, 26, posted a 4.84 ERA in the 2014 season between stops at Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham, fanning 21 and walking 19 over 44 2/3 innings of relief.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Pipeline Perspectives: White Sox duo among top AFL prospects to watch

White Sox shortstop, Cubs hurler have lots to prove as teams move forward

Pipeline Perspectives: White Sox duo among top AFL prospects to watch

There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye to eye. They discuss their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.

It is just one week before the start of another exciting Arizona Fall League season. I can't wait to get out there to see some of the best prospects in the game compete in the AFL, known as Major League Baseball's finishing school.

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I know this is something Jim Callis and I actually agree on. I know that's rare, but both of us do love the Fall League and the chance to see all that talent in one area at one time. But, as always, there is a divergence as we dig deeper. This week's Perspectives isn't a debate so much as a matter of choice. The question at hand: Which hitting and pitching prospect are we most looking forward to seeing play in the AFL this year?

Jim is going with perhaps the most obvious choice in Pipeline Perspectives history: Byron Buxton. He tries to make up for it by taking lesser-known White Sox right-hander Francellis Montas as his pitching choice, but I'm not sure that's enough of a smoke screen. Picking the No. 1 prospect in baseball as the player you're most excited to see is kind of like saying you're in favor of sunsets. Who isn't looking forward to seeing a healthy Buxton on the field again? But that's fine. There is no right or wrong this week, right?

I wanted to pick a hitter and a pitcher I've never seen play before. Given the sheer quantity of talent, there's no shortage of possibilities. On the offensive side of things, I'm going with 2013 first-round pick Tim Anderson of the White Sox. The No. 2 prospect in the organization is also No. 82 overall. Taken No. 17 overall out of the junior college ranks, Anderson is the kind of athletic and toolsy player the White Sox covet.

He's capable of doing it all on the field when he's healthy. He's already shown an ability to hit for average with some pop. And he can really run, with a 70 for speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. In 151 professional games, the shortstop has hit .291, slugged .430 and stolen 34 bases. His 2014 season was interrupted by a month and a half with a fractured wrist.

Typically, a guy comes back from that kind of injury and it takes him a while to get going. Not so for Anderson. Not only did he hit .364 and slug .500 in his 10 games after returning from the injury (and a five-game rehab in the rookie-level Arizona League), he did it in Double-A, up a level from where he had started the season.

The White Sox have moved him aggressively and he's responded to every challenge. He went right to full-season ball after the Draft and hit .277 with 24 steals, not looking overwhelmed one bit. A move to the Class A Advanced Carolina League to start the 2014 season, at age 20? No biggie. Anderson hit .297 and slugged .472, with 31 extra-base hits in 286 at-bats. After a slow-ish start, he hit .322 and slugged .444 in May, then followed that up with a .317 average and .529 SLG in June. The most amazing thing about that performance? He evidently was playing with the broken wrist for over a week.

I'm not just interested to see Anderson swing the bat and run in Arizona. I'm curious to watch him play shortstop. At the time of the 2013 Draft, many felt Anderson would be better suited for center field, where his athleticism and speed would play well. But the White Sox had no plans to move him off of short. He did make 34 errors in 81 games this season, though Minor League defensive numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. I want to see, in a small sample size, how he does at the premium position for myself.

On the mound, I'm staying in Chicago, though heading across town. All the talk about the Cubs centers on the hitting prospects, for good reasons: Baez, Soler, Alcantara, Bryant, Almora, Schwarber, all were or still are Top 100 prospects. But someone is going to have to pitch and the Cubs don't have nearly as much in the pipeline coming up on the mound.

The big exception is C.J. Edwards, the right-hander Chicago got from the Rangers as part of the Matt Garza deal last season. And no, I don't want to see the No. 53 overall prospect solely to encourage him to eat (he's listed at 6-foot-2, 155 pounds; it's enough to make a Jewish parent like myself worry himself sick.).

Edwards' stuff is reportedly electric, with a fastball that can touch 97 mph, an above-average curveball and a vastly improved changeup. A year ago, between his two organizations, Edwards struck out 12 per nine innings, walked 3.2, had a 1.86 ERA and gave up just one home run in 116 1/3 IP. He gave up just one more in 2014, albeit in a season shortened to 53 2/3 IP due to shoulder inflammation. In 237 professional innings, he's given up only two home runs. He has a career .169 batting average against and, like Anderson, he reached Double-A this past season.

Also like Anderson, it will be interesting to watch Edwards make up for the time he lost during the season. He made it back in August and had a 2.30 ERA in six closely-monitored starts. To me, watching how his stuff, and his penchant for not giving up the long ball, plays in the extremely hitting and power-friendly AFL, is one of the most intriguing subplots of this year's Fall League.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Development of young core in '15 can define Chicago's future

Development of young core in '15 can define Chicago's future

CHICAGO -- For the next step in the ongoing White Sox reshaping, retooling or rebuilding process, whatever the name that has been chosen or appropriately fits, the team will … ?

Look for big-ticket players in the free-agent market? Do the same via trades? Continue developing the youthful core that has been established over the past few years?

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The answer might not be known officially until general manager Rick Hahn gets his payroll number sometime in November. But the reality of the situation is that all of the above figure to make up the answer as the White Sox move into an important offseason with perennial playoff contention realistically in mind.

"That's absolutely our intent," Hahn said in a recent interview. "We obviously can't guarantee we're going to be able to make 'X' number of moves and we're going to be able to hit on as high a percentage of our targets as we did last year, but it's certainly our goal to address ideally all of what we feel are our needs, before they shift, as quickly as possible.

"This has never been about, 'Hey, we got two things done, so we're good.' The fact of the matter is we didn't get everything done last offseason as we wanted to do, and we look forward to the chance coming up in the coming weeks, where we're able to get a little more aggressive in pursuing some answers out there."

Hahn's aggressiveness is predicated by the White Sox having somewhere around $46 million committed to that yet to be set '15 payroll, after checking in around $90 million in '14. It also has been helped by the White Sox filling some recent glaring needs through the additions of Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton, to name a few.

As Hahn pointed out, though, plenty of work remains to be done.

"It's very important to continue to be aggressive this offseason," Hahn said, "and knock as many things as we can off that list and put ourselves in a position to contend as quickly as possible."

Arbitration-eligible: RHP Hector Noesi, C Tyler Flowers, RHP Javy Guerra, OF Dayan Viciedo, RHP Nate Jones, RHP Ronald Belisario.

Free agents: RHP Matt Lindstrom, 1B Paul Konerko (retiring), RHP Felipe Paulino ($4 million club option with $250,000 buyout).

Rotation: With Chris Sale and Jose Quintana at the top of the starting five, the White Sox have a one-two punch matching pretty much any team in the American League. Carlos Rodon, the team's top pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, has moved quickly through the system and has a chance to break camp out of Spring Training, '15, while John Danks figures to be the rotation's fourth southpaw.

The team needs a right-handed starter, which could be Noesi, who truly found a home through his work with pitching coach Don Cooper. Danks still is owed $28.5 million over the last two years of his contract, meaning he probably isn't trade material. So the question could become trying to get a major talent haul by moving a valuable piece such as Quintana or keeping a left-handed dominant starting crew while possibly looking for a middle-of-the-rotation righty. Quintana, who is signed through '18 with club options for '19 and '20, has understandably been untouchable.

Bullpen: Jones, a strong candidate to replace Addison Reed as closer, never threw a truly healthy pitch in 2014. Mix in another injury to Lindstrom and relievers pitching out of their designed situations, and the bullpen became one of the team's weakest points. Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Zach Putnam, all truly pleasant surprises from this past season, seem set in relief. Noesi could move to the bullpen, as could Chris Bassitt, who impressed with his development and composure over the season's final month as a starter. But Hahn needs to add three veteran-type relievers, which figures to include a closer.

Catcher: Can Flowers serve as a starting catcher on a contender? Flowers believes he answered that question in the affirmative this past season, with his strong handling of the pitching staff and improved offense. The White Sox still figure to look for another more experienced catcher, one who has the ability to hit from the left side. Switch-hitter Adrian Nieto acquitted himself well in his jump from the Carolina League to the White Sox as a Rule 5 selection but could benefit from more consistent playing time with Triple-A Charlotte.

First base: His name is Jose Abreu, and not much more needs to be said. If further description is required, simply look at his stunning '14 statistics that have Abreu as the clear frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year and a probable top five finisher in the MVP race. He only figures to get better as he continues to learn the league and adjust to the rigors of a 162-game schedule, while assuming more of the leadership mantle in Konerko's retirement.

Designated hitter: This spot deserves a mention to itself, because the exit of Adam Dunn leaves a significant left-handed void in the middle of the lineup. The name of free agent Victor Martinez already has been mentioned quite frequently, but Martinez certainly will have numerous high-end suitors, including his current Detroit team. Ideally, the White Sox would like an impact left-handed bat who also can play in the field when needed.

Second base: There was a time not too long ago when the White Sox didn't have many middle infield prospects, let alone quality ones. Now they have Micah Johnson, Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien all competing for the second base job left open by the trade of Gordon Beckham to the Angels. Johnson's explosiveness along with his left-handed bat figure to give him an edge, although Johnson knows missing the last month of '14 with a left hamstring strain puts him behind Sanchez and Semien. Semien seems to have the strongest utility role case, being able to play across the infield.

Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez has become the old man of the team, moving into his eighth year for the White Sox. Much like Quintana, Ramirez would figure to bring back a good talent package in return. He is signed through '15 with a $10-million club option for '16. But the White Sox don't have a true shortstop ready to take over until Tim Anderson, the team's top pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, is ready. They also know that when Ramirez is on his game, he's as good as any AL shortstop both offensively and defensively.

Third base: When Reed was traded to the D-backs last offseason, the White Sox thought they had their third baseman of the future in newly acquired Matt Davidson. Well, they had a third baseman of the future in-house, but it was Conor Gillaspie, who made significant strides with the glove and bat and sits as the position frontrunner. Davidson clearly is not out of the mix, but Semien is more likely to be the right-handed hitting counterpart to Gillaspie when the season begins.

Outfield: Center field and right field look set, with Eaton and Garcia in place respectively. White Sox manager Robin Ventura readily admits that Viciedo won't win a Gold Glove in left and his pitch selection remains inconsistent, but at just 25 years old and with the offensive potential to carry a team, the White Sox might not be ready to give up. A left-handed bat could fit in left with Viciedo possibly splitting time between the outfield and DH. Younger outfield prospects such as Courtney Hawkins or Trayce Thompson aren't ready for the big leagues, but this spot also could lend itself to a position change from where the White Sox currently have an abundance of talent.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Voting underway to decide Hank Aaron Awards

Help decide this season's top offensive performer in each league

Voting underway to decide Hank Aaron Awards

Voting is underway through Sunday exclusively at MLB.com to help decide the 16th annual winners of the Hank Aaron Award, given by "The Hammer" himself during the upcoming 110th World Series to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.

American League nominees include Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, David Ortiz of Boston, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Michael Brantley of Cleveland, Victor Martinez of Detroit, Jose Altuve of Houston, Alex Gordon of Kansas City, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Trevor Plouffe of Minnesota, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson of Oakland, Robinson Cano of Seattle, Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, Adrian Beltre of Texas and Jose Bautista of Toronto.

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National League candidates include Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, Justin Upton of Atlanta, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati, Justin Morneau of Colorado, Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, Jonathan Lucroy of Milwaukee, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh, Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, Seth Smith of San Diego, Hunter Pence of San Francisco and Anthony Rendon of Washington.

Goldschmidt is going after his second straight Hank Aaron Award, having been the NL choice last year for the first time. Miguel Cabrera was the AL recipient each of the past two years, but V-Mart's nomination by Detroit means an end to that streak.

"As one of the game's most talented and respected players ever, it is appropriate that Major League Baseball recognizes the top offensive performers in each league with an award named in honor of Hank Aaron," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Each of the nominees should be applauded for their outstanding seasons, which will make selecting just one winner in each league a difficult task for Hank, our Hall of Fame panel and our participating fans."

"I am honored to have my name on the award given by Major League Baseball to the top offensive performers in the game," Aaron said. "Each of the nominees is talented and deserving, which makes me grateful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to help select the winners."

For the fifth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by MLB and has recognized the top offensive threat in each league since it was established in 1999.

The panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBIs and 2,109 home runs -- have been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each league.

Do you go with a masher, like Stanton or Cruz? Or do you recognize a guy like Altuve, who led the Majors in batting average and led the AL in stolen bases? Home run kings often fare well in this process, but Chris Davis (53 homers) was trumped last year by Cabrera. And what about Trout, often referred to as the game's best player?

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include Cabrera and Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Alex Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Classy to the end, Konerko waves farewell to stellar career

White Sox captain exits to rousing ovation, thankful for support of family, fans

Classy to the end, Konerko waves farewell to stellar career

CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko officially became a former Major Leaguer in the sixth inning of the Royals' 6-4 victory over the White Sox on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field.

After grounding out to third leading off the fifth against Kansas City reliever Casey Coleman, Konerko ran out to the field to start infield work as starter Chris Bassitt warmed up. Andy Wilkins waited in the dugout, and when Bassitt was finished, Wilkins jogged out to replace the White Sox captain.

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Konerko hugged the rookie and stopped to acknowledge the thunderous standing ovation. He soon returned to the field for a curtain call, with the 32,266 in attendance finishing off a wonderful weekend celebration honoring the 18-year-veteran, of which 16 years were spent with the White Sox.

One final on-field postgame television interview followed. Then Konerko circled the field, talking to fans who basically followed his every move since he arrived from the Reds before the 1999 season in a trade for Mike Cameron.

"That kind of stuff never gets old. But over the last couple days, you don't know, it just gets more -- not awkward, but you feel like, am I wearing out my welcome with all this stuff? And I know they're calling for it, so I'm trying to soak it all in," said Konerko of the standing ovations and curtain calls. "Even the last thing here, I went around the field and all that, it wasn't planned. I kind of came out there and kind of made my way to wave to some people down the left-field line and then once you start going, you realize, 'OK, I gotta go all the way around.'

"It's not in my nature to try to drag things out. I feel like my whole career was based around coming in and playing the game and just try to blend in with everybody else and get the job done. So when these times come and you have to be like that, I'm just not comfortable in those things. I do the best I can and I always have, but it always feels bizarre to me.

"I understand it's the end. And I now understand -- I don't think I would've understood this a year ago -- there's a lot of people out there I've impacted over the years here," Konerko said. "I see people crying out there. That's crazy that just because I played a game, I never thought about that stuff. Sometimes it's not always about what's comfortable to me. I have to make that happen and go for closure for them as well. It's something they don't teach you in the Minor Leagues, about this kind of stuff."

Unlike Saturday, when Konerko took the field by himself at the start of the game, Konerko made sure he ran out with his teammates Sunday. He wanted to keep the game as normal as possible, in true Konerko form, because he knew the game could mean something to the Royals and to Bassitt in pitching for a spot in '15.

There were handshakes for first-base umpire Chris Conroy and Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz as he took his familiar post at first base. He then wrote Nick, Owen, A (Amelia) and J in the dirt behind first base in honor of his three children and wife Jennifer. He topped off that on-field artwork with a heart at the bottom, something he thought about somewhere around 20 minutes before first pitch.

"It was as a thank you because your family is always in the back seat. Your mom, your dad, your wife, your kids," Konerko said. "You do the best you can, but if you're a big league baseball player, you have to be selfish. You have to leave the house early. You're traveling. You come home late. You just miss a lot. It's not a normal thing.

"So it was kind of A) A thank you and B) to remind me that when this all ends today, that's what really matters. That's what's waiting for me all the time on the other side, and that's pretty good. I came here as a 22-year-old, 23-year-old kid with nothing, single guy and all that. I'm leaving with a wife, three kids. You're leaving here with everything you kind of worked for in life. It reminded me that's what's on the other side, and it will be good."

A perfect ending would have been career home run No. 440 or even some sort of hit. But Konerko, playing with a fractured sesamoid bone in his left hand, finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. His career numbers show a .279 average, 439 homers and 1,412 RBIs, not to mention 2,340 hits, of which 410 were doubles.

By Konerko's own admission, he wasn't the hitter he has been since '11. That's a natural drop for a player coming to the end of his career. Baseball now goes on the backburner, although Konerko joked that with the White Sox remodeling the home clubhouse, he hopes to get his locker sent to Arizona.

Maybe he'll just sit in front of it at home, with cardboard cutouts of the media standing around.

"This whole weekend with the Paul Konerko Day yesterday and obviously today, it was really cool," said Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer of Konerko. "They're out of it now obviously, but a lot of fans came to show up and show their appreciation. It's well deserved."

"Hit-wise that wasn't necessarily the way he wanted to go out, but the crowd reaction and having the people here he cared most about was very important to him," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He went out in a classy way."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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After Konerko's finale, Hahn reflects on Sox season

Club ends '14 in fourth place, but GM sees bigger, better things ahead

After Konerko's finale, Hahn reflects on Sox season

CHICAGO -- When placing a final grade on the White Sox 2014 season, which closed out Sunday via a 6-4 loss to the Royals before 32,266 at U.S. Cellular Field, general manager Rick Hahn chose to work on a pass/fail grading curve.

Pass/fail, with a caveat.

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"It's a failure. The goal is to win a championship," said Hahn, speaking before his team ended with a 73-89 record that represented a 10-game improvement from '13 and a fourth-place finish in the American League Central. "The goal is always to win a championship, and we're not going to do that.

"From the standpoint of putting ourselves in position to win multiple championships," Hahn added, "there are some successes that we can feel happy about."

First baseman Jose Abreu, who almost certainly will be selected as the AL Rookie of the Year, stands front and center on that list of successes. He did not play Sunday, getting the day off along with fellow All-Star, shortstop Alexei Ramirez, third baseman Conor Gillaspie and catcher Tyler Flowers, but clubbed his 36th homer on Saturday night to break a tie with Ron Kittle (1983) and set a single-season franchise rookie record. Not only did Abreu prove to be a prolific slugger, but he also posted a team-high .317 average to go with his team-best 107 RBIs.

Adam Eaton, acquired from Arizona as part of a three-team offseason deal that included Hector Santiago moving to Anaheim, established himself as one of the AL's top leadoff hitters. The left-handed-hitting sparkplug doubled and singled twice Sunday, leaving his final average exactly at .300.

Another major step forward was taken by ace Chris Sale, who will be a serious player in AL Cy Young Award consideration after producing a 2.17 ERA, 202 strikeouts and just 39 walks over 174 innings. A scoring change made by Major League Baseball in Felix Hernandez's last start against the Blue Jays knocked down his earned runs allowed from eight to four and helped him edge Sale with a 2.14 ERA by virtue of his 5 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday against the Angels.

Marcus Semien joins Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez as part of the middle infield talent pool, with Semien launching a two-run homer off starter Yordano Ventura on Sunday, and Sanchez knocking out one hit to go with slick defense at second. Even a young pitcher such as Chris Bassitt, who started Sunday and yielded three runs over five innings while striking out five, has put himself in play for some sort of role with the '15 squad.

All of these Major League plusses don't even factor in a strong international talent haul, what looks to be an exceptional '14 Draft that includes hurlers Carlos Rodon and Spencer Adams and the development of young pitchers such as Frank Montas and Tyler Danish.

"So there's a lot of positive in terms of getting us closer to where we want to be, but we're by no means there yet," Hahn said. "We knew going in, going back 15 months or so when this thing began in earnest, this was going to be a multi-year process.

"We can be pleased about how that first year-plus of it has gone. But we absolutely have to follow it up with another success, another strong year of success, and that starts in earnest [Monday]."

The White Sox future focus took a necessary backseat this weekend to a celebration of the present and past during the finale of Paul Konerko's 16-year-run on the South Side. He departed in the top of the sixth, replaced by Andy Wilkins, creating a raucous standing ovation, a curtain call and a leadership void that will be tough to fill.

But even without their captain, the White Sox have an optimistic feeling about improving their season grade in '15.

"Definitely, I don't know how you couldn't be," said starter John Danks, who got the win Saturday. "We didn't make as much progress as we would like but we are moving in the right direction. You know Rick and [executive vice president] Kenny [Williams] aren't done. So it's only going to get better."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Top prospect Rodon could start, relieve next season

Club's No. 1 Draft pick in '14 'important part' of Sox future, says GM Hahn

Top prospect Rodon could start, relieve next season

CHICAGO -- The White Sox view Carlos Rodon as competition for the 2015 rotation coming out of Spring Training. There's also a chance Rodon could break camp as part of the bullpen next April.

"It's conceivable he could be a member of the bullpen in 2015 at some point," said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, who spoke of the team's top pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft and third selection overall as part of Sunday's season-ending interview. "I do believe, much like when we had Chris Sale in a similar situation, that his long-term future is at the front end of a rotation, but we are not necessarily committed that it has to be on Day 1 as part of a rotation in order to get to that spot."

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After throwing 24 2/3 innings over stops with the Arizona Rookie League White Sox, Class A Winston-Salem and Triple-A Charlotte, Rodon is resting. He soon will connect with White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper and Minor League pitching coordinator Curt Hasler to develop an offseason program.

"He's going to be an important part of what we've got going on here for the next several years," said Hahn of the 21-year-old Rodon, who fanned 38 and walked just 13. "He's going to have the opportunity coming into camp in 2015 to start that process in April of next year. If it's April, though, or it's June, July, August, whenever it does occur, 2016, it doesn't change the fact that we think this kid has a very bright future once it does get started at the big league level."

Ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com, Rodon would present an interesting candidate as a closing option. But as Cooper pointed out, the young southpaw figures to start next year in Charlotte's rotation, the White Sox rotation or in the White Sox bullpen, but not anointed as closer right from the start.

Hahn doesn't seem concerned about the possibility of having four lefties in the rotation, with Rodon potentially joining Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks. He wants good pitchers, as opposed to a specific lefty-righty break.

As for a clear-cut closer option, at the bare minimum, Hahn wants more choices for manager Robin Ventura.

"Obviously the bullpen is an important area that we need to upgrade this year," Hahn said. "We enter this offseason with a couple of pieces that improved their stock over the course of the season, Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam … even Javy Guerra and Daniel Webb at times showed a level of progress you can be pleased with. Eric Surkamp, as well, over the last five, six weeks.

"There's some elements there that are going to be part, we feel, potential parts of a championship club. At the same time, there's zero doubt in our mind that we need to make some bullpen upgrades. We've talked about this for several years. I've never been of the specific mindset that someone has to be anointed 'the closer,' and only pitch in the ninth inning with leads of three runs or less. I don't think that's necessarily the ideal way to deploy what should be your best reliever. So, it's not imperative in my mind we go out and sign or acquire someone who has 150 lifetime saves and say, 'This is the guy.'

"If that happens, from a market standpoint that that player's available and he's available for a cost we see as reasonable, fantastic," Hahn said. "But the overall goal of the bullpen is going to be to acquire multiple options, potentially from the right and left side … many of which could be end-game options for us."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Hahn wants to see White Sox contend in '15, beyond

Hahn wants to see White Sox contend in '15, beyond

CHICAGO -- Playoff contention stands as the prime target for White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and his staff as they work to improve a fourth-place squad during the offseason. That's contention in 2015 and contention long-term.

With only $46 million committed to the '15 payroll, before arbitration, White Sox fans would like to see Hahn get the top player at every position that needs an upgrade through this financial flexibility. Hahn joked Sunday that he would like the White Sox to do the same, but understands that hope does not always become reality.

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"The board in my office has more than two names at each position, and that's for a reason," Hahn said. "Our intent is to convert on the No. 1 target at every spot and address every need with the ideal fit. Realistically there are 29 other clubs, some of which have similar needs to ours and similar resources, whether it be from a player to trade standpoint or an economic standpoint.

"So, we're realistic and know that we're not going to be able to necessarily convert on every top guy. At the same time, our scouts and our analytics people are fairly well-versed and skilled at being able to target, perhaps, I don't want to say second-tier, perhaps less notable targets who we've been able to develop into integral parts of championship clubs here. The list is long. It continues to be vetted. It'll continue to be vetted over the next few weeks. We go through our process both internally and begin the conversations with other clubs, but I agree. It'd be great to get every top guy."

Hahn labeled potential acquisitions in two categories of moves: short-term fixes that are going to improve the club and slightly move the chains, and long-term fits. Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, top prospect Carlos Rodon and Avisail Garcia stand as long-term examples.

"We're never going to move our eye from those long-term targets being a priority," Hahn said. "At the same time, we may be in a position where some shorter-term deals with some veteran-type players might make some sense in order to get this team closer to where we want to be."

Worth noting

• Hahn said position switches for spots where the White Sox have an abundance of talent have been debated within the organization. But no changes have been made.

"We've tried to keep an open mind," Hahn said. "But at this point, we're not entering the offseason with any guys all of a sudden taking fly balls that you're going to be surprised seeing taking fly balls."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Konerko statue unveiled during pregame ceremony

White Sox captain feted by organization, fans for 16 seasons

Konerko statue unveiled during pregame ceremony

CHICAGO - All Paul Konerko wanted to do was play baseball.

That fact rang true during the 16 years the captain was a fixture with the White Sox on the South Side of Chicago. It certainly was the case Saturday night at U.S Cellular Field, just two games from the end of the 2014 regular season.

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But on Paul Konerko Day, the six-time All-Star who never sought out the individual attention had to sit through an exceptional 41-minute program to honor his remarkable career coming to a close with Sunday's last pitch.

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Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the White Sox television play-by-play voice, emceed the ceremony and opened by talking about celebrating one of the most productive and popular players to ever put on a White Sox uniform. By the time the program was done, Konerko watched video tributes ranging from Mark Buehrle to Derrick Rose to Jonathan Toews and closed out with an eight-minute speech that was true to form for the class and character he has exemplified as the leader of this team.

"This is way more than you ever dream could happen when you pick up a bat," said Konerko, during the opening remarks of his speech. "You're 6 years old and you find yourself here 32 years later with all this going on.

"It's not something that you think is going to happen. I'm guessing it's too late to ask for a day off, Robin, because I don't know if I'm going to be able to get out there tonight. I'll do my best. I'll get out there."

The highlight of the program came when White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf stepped to the dais. He spoke of the great moment the two shared after the '05 World Series championship and then showed a video of Konerko presenting him the baseball from the final out of the title during the ensuing victory parade.

Reinsdorf joked that Konerko should have never given him the ball because Konerko was the one who did the work to get the team to the ultimate plateau.

"Having said that, I'm not giving it back," said Reinsdorf.

Instead the White Sox tracked down the fan who caught Konerko's Game 2 grand slam from the '05 World Series. Chris Claeys presented the baseball to Konerko at home plate.

"As it was going on, I was thinking, 'OK, is Jerry going to give me the ball back, the one I gave him? Where is this going?'" said Konerko after the 5-4 victory over the Royals. "And then he actually said no, it's not that, so then I'm like, 'Where is he going with this?'

"Up until the moment he said what was happening I had no idea that that was happening. And it's cool because now that puts that to come back home to me and have it, that was a big moment for me, a big moment for the team."

That emotional moment was followed by Reinsdorf pointing to a bunch of balloons anchored on the left -field concourse. The balloons were released upon Reinsdorf's order, showing a statue of Konerko with his fist raised in the air commemorating that World Series grand slam. Konerko's No. 14 will be retired during a ceremony in 2015.

Former teammates Sean Lowe, Chris Getz, Greg Norton, Jim Thome, Brian Anderson, Ross Gload and Cliff Politte were in attendance, with video tributes from Ozzie Guillen, Scott Podsednik, Joe Crede, Gordon Beckham, A.J. Pierzynski, Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye and Derek Jeter. The tributes opened with James Hetfield, the lead singer from Metallica, thanking Konerko for previously using their music as his walk-up anthem.

"James Hetfield from Metallica said my name. It's crazy," Konerko said. "Just because you can hit a ball with a bat. It's pretty cool. I'm blown away by it."

There was an oil painting presented to Konerko depicting his swing and white and black baseballs forming the No. 14, all signed by his teammates from '05. There also was a bench made of baseball bats and balls saluting the captain. Konerko, a music enthusiast, received a 1976 Gibson guitar and a mint condition 1963 Fender Stratocaster.

At the time Konerko spoke, he congratulated the Royals first for reaching the playoffs and taking the time to watch the ceremony with the American League Central title still on the line. He thanked friends, family members, teammates, coaches and other important people from the organization, and the fans, whom he referred to as "friends."

"When you look at that statue out there, or you look at that number that's going to go right there, just realize that when you look at that when I'm not there and you're at these games, your fingerprints are all over it," said Konerko. "It wouldn't be there without you guys, so thank you."

By the time the third or fourth standing ovation erupted, Konerko stepped to the microphone and said. "Let's play some baseball here." It was a fitting end for the person and player.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Ventura unsuccessful in challenging play at plate

Later in game, crew chief review confirms call on fielder's choice

Ventura unsuccessful in challenging play at plate

CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura unsuccessfully challenged a fourth-inning call in Sunday's game against the Royals that Josh Phegley was out at the plate trying to score on a grounder back to the pitcher.

With one out and runners at the corners, Phegley ran home on a Leury Garcia dribbler back to Royal starter Yordano Ventura, who tossed home to catcher Salvador Perez. After a two-minute, 24-second review, the umpires ruled that the play stands.

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Phegley attempted to slide around Perez, but was tagged out

The White Sox would score on a bases-loaded walk two batters later, extending their lead to 4-2.

Ventura is 17-for-36 in managerial challenges.

A 58-second crew chief review in the seventh confirmed a call on a fielder's choice that ruled Avisail Garcia out at the plate, not interfered by Perez by virtue of rule 7.13.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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White Sox deal Royals' division title hopes a blow

Abreu, Phegley (twice) homer following Konerko's retirement ceremony

White Sox deal Royals' division title hopes a blow

CHICAGO -- Records were eclipsed and farewells were fostered in the White Sox 5-4 win over the postseason-bound Royals on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

A crowd of 38,160, third largest of the season, was on hand to enjoy a 41-minute pregame ceremony honoring retiring White Sox captain Paul Konerko.

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Konerko started at first and went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts, and left in the top of the seventh to a roaring ovation.

"It was a good night, touching night for him to come in, regardless of not getting a hit or anything," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "That's beside the point. His career stands on its own. He's a guy that never took for granted one day in the big leagues. I can attest to that."

Jose Abreu smacked his way into the record books with his 36th home run, the most by a White Sox rookie in the team's 114-year history. Abreu's 406-foot, two-run shot on a 2-2 fastball gave the South Siders a 3-0 lead in the first, following an RBI single by Alexei Ramirez. Ron Kittle set the previous rookie mark with 35 in 1983.

"That stands forever," Ventura said. "I think he was proud of that. Everybody was happy for him."

Said Abreu through an interpreter: "I'm very happy and grateful for the opportunity here and also extremely happy about everything that's happened for Paulie today. It's a special day for him and I want the attention on that. That's what I feel is the most important thing of today."

September callup catcher Josh Phegley had his first career multi-homer game with a pair of solo shots to left in the second and seventh innings, his second and third of the season.

Left-hander John Danks capped his season with two earned runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts over seven innings. It was the fourth straight quality start for Danks, who finished his final seven starts of the first half 5-1 with a 3.12 ERA, but then struggled mightily until mid-September.

"We want to win them all," Danks said. "We are not just going through the motions, but certainly you don't want to lose on Paul Konerko Day. But certainly we wanted Paul to have a great night and a memorable night and I think we did that."

The Royals' Nori Aoki brought home Mike Moustakas on a fielder's choice in the second, and Salvador Perez lined a solo homer in the seventh. White Sox reliever Ronald Belisario gave up a run in the eighth as the Royals -- still chasing the Tigers for the American League Central title -- cut the deficit to 5-3. In the ninth, Javy Guerra took over for an injured Jake Petricka and gave up a run-scoring single. Petricka left with lower back stiffness after giving up a leadoff walk to Alex Gordon.

Royals lefty Danny Duffy didn't make it out of the third inning -- relieved after Abreu lined a single to right. Duffy, who tossed six scoreless innings against the Indians on Monday after missing three starts with a shoulder injury, finished with four earned runs on five hits and no strikeouts over two-plus innings.

"He just never really got it going," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He came out and struggled in the first inning and never got his tempo down. He just never really got comfortable on the mound tonight for some reason.

"He was struggling to command the baseball, he was struggling to get ahead, he was leaving pitches up and it was just one of those nights."

The White Sox honored Konerko between innings with video tributes from the likes of former teammates Aaron Rowand and Jon Garland and opponents Torii Hunter and CC Sabathia.

"I mean James Hetfield from Metallica said my name," Konerko said. "It's crazy. Just because you can hit a ball with a bat. It's pretty cool. I don't know what else to say. I'm blown away by it."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Reinsdorf shares memories, special gift with Konerko

Reinsdorf shares memories, special gift with Konerko

CHICAGO -- Jerry Reinsdorf was a fan first, then a husband and a father. He's brought seven championships to Chicago, including six for the Bulls in the Michael Jordan era. He lived the fullest of lives in love and in business.

He was never as emotional, by his own account at the time, as the moment in 2005 when Paul Konerko reached into his pocket and handed him the ball that was used to record the last out in the White Sox's World Series sweep of the Astros.

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"He earned it," Konerko said at the rally that followed the victory parade.

During Saturday's 40-minute ceremony to honor the retiring White Sox icon, after a video clip from the World Series celebration, Reinsdorf recounted those feelings. Konerko had already been given a series of gifts from the organization and for a minute you wondered if Reinsdorf was about to reach into his jacket pocket for the ball, so he could return it to Konerko.

Reinsdorf even hesitated a moment as he looked at the crowd that had packed U.S. Cellular Field on a gorgeous early autumn night. Then he smiled.

"Paulie, you really shouldn't have given me that ball," Reinsdorf said. "You deserve it a whole lot more than I do. You were the guy who powered us to that World Series championship. Having said that, though, I'm not going to give it back."

The crowd laughed, and so did Reinsdorf.

Then Reinsdorf did something nobody could have seen coming. He explained how the White Sox had tracked down the holder of the ball Konerko had hit for his Game 2 grand slam in the Series, a Chicagoan named Chris Claeys, and brought him to the podium.

Claeys quietly handed the ball to Konerko, to ringing applause from 38,160 Konerko fans. He said a few words in private to Konerko, grabbed a quick hug -- during which Konerko whispered that they might be the two most nervous people in the stadium -- and then waved sheepishly while exiting stage right.

It was the sweetest moment in a ceremony that was so sweet it should have come with a warning from the surgeon general.

Paul Konerko
Konerko calls it a career
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Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues
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Konerko's legend began in high school
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Claeys, a film editor who supports the White Sox while living in Cub territory on the North Side, never hesitated to turn the ball over to Konerko when White Sox Senior Vice President/Marketing Brooks Boyer called to ask if he'd consider doing so.

"I feel really good about it," Claeys said. "It's really been a prized possession. But Paul Konerko is such a cool guy, and he's so respectable. He's played here 16 years. When they brought the idea to me, I thought, 'This is a great idea.' "

Ditto the entire Paul Konerko Night celebration. The White Sox gave the 38-year-old first baseman a sendoff worthy of a Hall of Famer, even if he poses a tough decision for voters.

His career home run (439) and RBI (1,412) totals might not be quite high enough to keep him out of the Cooperstown waiting room, where other White Sox greats like Minnie Minoso, Billy Pierce and Harold Baines have been assigned. But that's a debate for other nights; on this one, there was no questioning his standing in Chicago.

Reinsdorf revealed that Konerko's No. 14 will be retired in another ceremony in 2015 but there will be no waiting for a statue, like ones of other iconic players at U.S. Cellular. A Konerko statue was unveiled on the left-field concourse Saturday night, and Reinsdorf pointed to a seat in section 159 that had been painted blue, to commemorate where Konerko's World Series grand slam had landed.

Konerko was showered with gifts -- artwork, guitars (including a 1963 Fender Stratocaster), a love seat made from baseball bats and balls manufactured by former Sox outfielder Ron Kittle, and more. The seat was delivered to him by his some of his current teammates, and inscribed: "Our teammate … our captain."

A group of former Konerko teammates attended, with Jim Thome sitting in the middle of the row and drawing the most applause when he was introduced, and the White Sox played a series of recorded tributes on the center-field scoreboard, including one from Derek Jeter.

Hawk Harrelson had begun the ceremony by describing Konerko as "one of the most productive players to ever put on a White Sox uniform, and one of the most popular guys to ever put on a White Sox uniform."

Reinsdorf grew up a Brooklyn Dodger fan. He says that Konerko reminds him of one of his favorite Dodger players, shortstop Pee Wee Reese.

Reese was a standout player -- he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting eight times despite hitting only .269 -- but was respected for his integrity and his leadership. He famously used his stature and his kindness to make life easier for Jackie Robinson in 1947. Konerko, likewise, has always taken the high road. And like Reese, he leaves behind a legacy bigger than his statistics.

"He always had that leader quality in him," said Greg Norton, who was the White Sox's regular third baseman in 1999. "He was driven to be the best. At the end of the day, you knew he'd become the captain. He wanted it. He was willing to [work]. I think a lot of people would love to have those qualities. Whether he was born with it or [it was] something he acquired along the way, it was endearing to his teammates and the fans of Chicago."

Konerko was poised and casual when it was his turn behind the podium, which suddenly seemed small. He joked that he might be too exhausted to play the night's game but his voice was clear and steady. It did not crack. But there was no doubting that he spoke from the heart and, of course, he touched every base.

Konerko looked into the Kansas City dugout, where most of their 36 players were standing on the top step watching the ceremony, and thanked the Royals for their indulgence. He congratulated them for capturing a playoff spot and wished them success in October.

He saved his thank you to the fans for last.

"I wanted to say thank you mostly to you guys," Konerko said. "I'm not going to say fans, I'm going to say all my friends. For some reason, early in my career, I don't know what it was because I really hadn't done anything, [but] you guys treated me like I had been here. There was just some sort of connection early on."

Consider this a job well done -- by Konerko, but also the team and fans who never took him for granted.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Special night brings out all kinds of emotion

Organization, fans show Konerko how much he will be missed

Special night brings out all kinds of emotion

CHICAGO -- To present an idea as to how perfect the Paul Konerko Day celebration was pulled off by the White Sox on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field, an overwhelmed Konerko said after a 5-4 victory over the Royals that he couldn't have done a better job laying it out himself.

"If I would have planned it myself, I don't think I would have done anything different," said Konerko, speaking in the Conference and Learning Center at the ballpark after going hitless in three at-bats. "That's how good it was.

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"Over the last couple of weeks, when I could see like this is going to be a thing, this is going to be an ordeal, I was nervous about it and was nervous right up until it. I felt comfortable once I started to talk and kind of knew I had it at that point as far as I can get through this now."

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Konerko ready to put family over baseball
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Konerko's legend began in high school
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Hank and Elena Konerko, Paul's parents, and his brother, Peter, along with his family, were part of the three suites full of Konerko family and friends to celebrate Saturday. They were joined on the field by Paul's wife, Jennifer, and their three children, Nicholas, Owen and Amelia, for the 41-minute celebration of his 16 years with the White Sox, which included a statue presentation on the left-field concourse and the return of the baseball from his Game 2 grand slam in the '05 World Series.

Former teammates Sean Lowe, Chris Getz, Greg Norton, Jim Thome, Brian Anderson, Ross Gload and Cliff Politte also were in attendance and seated behind Konerko. Because of the flight cancellation issues hitting O'Hare and Midway Airports in Chicago on Friday, fellow teammates and friends Scott Podsednik, Joe Crede, Craig Wilson and Mark Kotsay were unable to attend the festivities.

"Paul's such a dear friend and I'm just happy I was able to make it here," said Anderson, who played with Konerko from '05-09. "I know Crede and Pods and those guys, they got tied up with their flights. I know they're extremely bummed.

"I've been getting texts from Crede right now. He's legitimately livid that he's not here. It's a bummer. It just goes to show you how much everyone cares about Paul and want to be here for him in his last couple of games."

That care certainly extended to Konerko's present teammates, who fed off the energy produced by a raucous sellout of 38,160. It includes manager Robin Ventura, whom Konerko praised in his pregame speech for the way he handled the captain's final season.

After the victory, Konerko apologized for the way he played on the evening. Not so much an apology, but the man who has made a career of being able to block out distractions and focus on the job at hand could not do so on this remarkable evening.

"Just very odd," Konerko said. "As many games as I've played, none of them ever felt like that going into it. It was awesome."

"It was a great turnout for what was a really nice tribute and ceremony and all that," Ventura said. "Paulie does a great job of explaining his emotions of what it was, but as calm and cool and collected as he is, he was pretty touched by it. The energy was great tonight. We're out of it, but he deserves that. All year long, the fans have done a nice job of recognizing his contribution to this organization. For them, coming out, it was touching."

John Danks, who earned the victory, listed Konerko as one of the greatest influences in his career, along with Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland. There are many other players who would share the same sentiment.

It was a great way for Konerko to depart, with tributes from opposing players, former teammates and even his family played on the scoreboard in between innings. But in the opinion of Hank Konerko, his son was destined to find this sort of baseball success on the South Side of Chicago, a successful run that ends on Sunday.

"He's half Italian, half Polish," said the proud father with a broad smile. "Where else would God want him to play but Chicago? I'm proud of what Paul does for the other guys behind the scenes, working with the younger guys and setting a good example."

"You see people who have those ceremonies. But you don't think you're that person who gets to have those," Konerko said. "So, maybe I still don't. It's all mindboggling to me, the whole thing. The statue and the whole thing, I don't know. It's pretty cool. I'm pretty humbled by it."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fan gives Konerko back WS ball, gets another

Turns over prized possession during ceremony, catches foul ball

Fan gives Konerko back WS ball, gets another

CHICAGO -- Chris Claeys surprised Paul Konerko with the baseball from his grand slam during Game 2 of the 2005 World Series as part of Paul Konerko Day ceremonies on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. But in a strange twist, Claeys gave away one baseball and left with another one.

In the third inning of the game against the Royals, Claeys snagged a foul ball on the second pitch from Royals reliever Louis Coleman to of all people, Konerko. Claeys then talked about the catch and the gift of the grand slam baseball later on the White Sox television broadcast.

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"This has been an awesome experience," Claeys said. "I'm having a really great day!"

In the months after the 2005 World Series, White Sox fan Chris Claeys figures he could have sold the baseball from Paul Konerko's Game 2 grand slam off Houston reliever Chad Qualls for somewhere around $50,000-$100,000.

But the Chicago native decided to keep the ball he retrieved on that cold, rainy October night. That decision ultimately brought him to Paul Konerko Day on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field and in front of the White Sox captain himself as part of the ceremony.

Claeys presented the baseball to Konerko, who leaned over and told him they were probably the two most nervous guys on the field. In exchange, Claeys received a suite for Saturday's contest and a signed picture from Konerko reading, 'Chris, thanks for my 2005 World Series grand slam ball. PK.'

Paul Konerko
Konerko calls it a career
Complete coverage
Konerko's presence will be felt long after last out
Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues
Konerko ready to put family over baseball
Rogers: Konerko a South Side fixture
Konerko's legend began in high school
White Sox old, new share memories
 
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Konerko thanks White Sox fans
Konerko reflects on career
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"That's really all I wanted was that," said the film editor, who resides on Chicago's north side. "I certainly wondered about -- because it's really been a prized possession. But Paul Konerko is such a cool guy. And he's respectable and he's played here 16 years. And when they brought that idea to me, I thought, 'This is a great idea, this is cool, this is fun, I want to do it.' "

This baseball resided in Claeys' safety deposit until Grant DePorter from Harry Caray's contacted Claeys about putting it on display at the downtown Chicago restaurant. It was on display for the past nine years before the White Sox contacted Claeys to be part of the ceremony, having him deliver the baseball as a surprise.

"I said, 'Paul, this has been my prized possession for nine years and tonight it becomes yours. Thank you for 16 years of great memories,' " said Claeys, who got a hug from Konerko after the exchange. "He might've been surprised when [White Sox chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] said -- the Sox and I agreed to try to make it a surprise and I think maybe it worked. I don't know for sure, but I tried to keep it on the down low and I think they did, too. He was just super friendly, chatted briefly, took a bunch of pictures."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Abreu sets White Sox rookie home run record

Sets mark with No. 36, surpassing Kittle's 1983 total

Abreu sets White Sox rookie home run record

CHICAGO - Jose Abreu set the single-season White Sox rookie home run record with his 36th blast to right-center off of Kansas City starter Danny Duffy in the first inning of Saturday night's 5-4 White Sox victory on Paul Konerko Day at U.S. Cellular Field.

Abreu connected on a 2-2 fastball, driving in Alexei Ramirez, to give the White Sox a 3-0 lead. He was previously tied with Ron Kittle, who hit 35 during the 1983 season.

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Despite reaching this important milestone, Abreu shared the night's excitement with the White Sox captain.

"I'm very happy and grateful for the opportunity," said Abreu through interpreter Julio Vinas. "I'm extremely happy about everything that has happened for Paulie today. It's a special day for him. I want the attention on that. That's what I feel is the most important thing of today."

Saturday's blast marked Abreu's third homer in September and his first since Sept. 14 against the Twins. The two-run shot gave him 107 RBIs, and he finished the night with a .317 average and a .581 slugging percentage.

Some have suggested that Abreu could be the next White Sox leader with Konerko's 16-year-run coming to an end after Sunday's season finale. While Abreu is sad to see Konerko retire, he has learned a great deal from him in one season and seems ready to apply that knowledge as a veteran in '15.

"If the team feels that I should be the captain or the leader of the team, then I'll take that with great strides and much respect with everything that comes with that," Abreu said. "All I want to do is win as many ballgames to have a championship here."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fans, Konerko share special relationship

Fans, Konerko share special relationship

CHICAGO -- Joel Antol was in Madison, S.D., on Friday while, at U.S. Cellular Field, the Royals were celebrating their first playoff berth in 29 years.

As the champagne soaked the visitors' clubhouse, Antol was wrapping his radio call of a high school football game, scurrying his way out of the press box. He trekked 240 miles northeast to Minneapolis, where he caught a 6:30 a.m. flight to Chicago.

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"I had to be here for Paulie," Antol said of retiring White Sox icon Paul Konerko, who was honored with a near-40 minute pregame ceremony in front of 30,000 plus on Saturday.

Linda Wisniewski and her only daughter, Sandra Bohlman, have been coming to Opening Day together since the latter was a child. It's an annual tradition -- no husbands or (grand)children allowed.

Wisniewski and Bohlman extended their ritual on Saturday, wearing two crying baby face masks bought at Party City en route to the park, to personify their heartache of watching their favorite player's final weekend.

"We're going to miss him," Wisniewski said. "He's our favorite. Paulie is by far the best. He's just a good guy. He has great integrity."

Added Bohlman: "He cares about his fans. He's classy."

Paul Konerko
Konerko calls it a career
Complete coverage
Konerko's presence will be felt long after last out
Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues
Konerko ready to put family over baseball
Rogers: Konerko a South Side fixture
Konerko's legend began in high school
White Sox old, new share memories
 
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Konerko thanks White Sox fans
Konerko reflects on career
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Lou Gould grew up at 32nd and Wells, a stone's throw from old Comiskey Park, which he insists is better than the still-standing, 100-year-old Wrigley Field 10 miles north.

Gould was at the gates on Saturday a full 90 minutes before they opened, three-plus hours before Konerko's ceremony. The payoff: being in the first row just behind the White Sox on-deck circle during batting practice.

"When you grew up as close as I did, it's built in your blood," Gould said of his love for the South Siders.

Gould noted ticket prices and a few sour seasons have kept him away from the ballpark in recent years. But Gould said he wanted to match Konerko's loyalty to Chicago, where the All-Star stayed after a completed contract, with higher offers elsewhere.

"There's very little loyalty in baseball, and really, in sports these days," Gould said. "Those kind of guys like Paulie, Derek Jeter -- they're few and far between these days. Paul shows it a lot by playing. You get a feeling much more that he loves the game. He'd come out here and play for a dollar a game as if it were a sandlot game."

Bohlman said the White Sox have been a unifying platform for their family, particularly during Konerko's tenure, when the team consistently contended.

The echoes of Hawk Harrelson reverberate through the kitchen while Wisniewski cooks; Bohlman busy in the living room with her four-year-old son watching the game, barely versed, yet chanting: "Paulie! Home run!"

Antol grew up in Cubs territory on the North Side, but was entrenched in White Sox mores through his father, who two months prior made the plans to attend Saturday's ceremony. A 600-plus mile separation to South Dakota generally reverts their meetings only to the holidays. But this weekend, it was baseball that brought them back.

"You look back over the last 14-15 years, he's been a part of every big moment," Antol said of Konerko. "It's Paulie. We really wanted to be here for this."

Konerko spoke to the crowd for eight minutes during his pregame ceremony in front of one of the park's largest crowds of 2014.

"I'm not even going to say fans, I'm going to say friends," Konerko said to a roaring ovation. "All my friends in this building right now. You know, for some reason when I got here early in my career, I don't know what it was, I really hadn't done anything, but you guys treated me like I had been here and there was some kind of a connection I felt.

"The relationship between myself and you guys, it just fit right. I tried to earn that as best as I could for you guys. Like I said, I could have had a good career anywhere, but never would have happened in this city and this stadium could I have had without all of you guys. It just fit and it worked and I tried to run with it as long as I could and I really appreciate all the support.

"So when you look at that statue out there, or you look at that number that's going to go right there, just realize that when you look at that when I'm not there and you're at these games, your fingerprints are all over it. It wouldn't be there without you guys, so thank you."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Konerko congratulates Royals on season's success

Konerko congratulates Royals on season's success

CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko took time to recognize the Royals as he made his farewell address to White Sox fans during a ceremony before Saturday night's game.

The Royals lined the rail of the visitors' dugout and Konerko congratulated them for winning a postseason berth with their 3-1 win over the White Sox on Friday night.

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"They should be very proud. They ended a long streak to get into the playoffs. This whole thing is keeping them from getting this game going, and I appreciate them being out here, number one, and having to change up their schedule," Konerko said.

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"Good luck to you guys. Represent the Central. You guys remind me of a team I played for once, so you guys can do it."

Konerko had said after Friday night's game that the Royals reminded him of the 2005 World Series champion White Sox.

"That team has a lot of the same makeup of the team that we won the World Series with. With their pitching and timely hitting, I feel like they have a real good shot to go a long ways," Konerko said then. "So, good for them. Enjoy it and happy for those guys."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues

Retiring captain formed rare bond with organization, fans

Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues

CHICAGO -- There are countless great Paul Konerko memories for Jerry Reinsdorf to consider as his favorite over the 16 years the White Sox chairman has spent with the White Sox captain.

Of course one memory involving the two men stands out among all others.

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"You could probably guess couldn't you?" a smiling Reinsdorf said, speaking to the media prior to Friday night's contest against the Royals.

Reinsdorf was referring, of course, to Konerko handing him the baseball from the last out of the 2005 World Series championship on the dais during the celebratory parade in downtown Chicago, one of the true moving surprises of Reinsdorf's life.

Paul Konerko
Konerko calls it a career
Complete coverage
Konerko's presence will be felt long after last out
Reinsdorf, Williams extol Konerko's virtues
Konerko ready to put family over baseball
Rogers: Konerko a South Side fixture
Konerko's legend began in high school
White Sox old, new share memories
 
Multimedia
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Konerko, Reinsdorf said, reminded him of Pee Wee Reese -- one of Reinsdorf's all-time favorite players -- in that he was a quiet leader who led by example. Executive vice president Ken Williams truly appreciated Konerko's leadership quality at the helm of teams he constructed as general manager.

"I tried to bridge the gap between management and players, and oftentimes some of the more veteran players, when we're contemplating either mid-season additions or offseason additions, I'd pull veteran players aside," Williams said. "And he was part of that group, where I'd ask his opinion: 'Who do you think are the championship players on your team?' And, 'We're considering this particular guy or that particular guy on another team. What do you know about him? Is that guy a championship player? What kind of guy is he? Does he fit in the clubhouse?'

"So, those peripheral things that I think, if I didn't say it here today, none of you would know and no one else would know. Those are just as valuable for a guy like me and for the management team as they are for the on-field team."

On Thursday, Konerko said if the phone rang and it was Reinsdorf, he would always answer and ask what he could do to help. Reinsdorf echoed the same sentiment toward Konerko on Friday, mentioning that they would see each other in Arizona in the offseason and maybe even go to a Phoenix Coyotes hockey game.

"It's very open door, very you can walk in there, anybody can walk in there and sit down in his office and chat with him if you want," said Konerko of Reinsdorf. "It's not some big grand thing. I've always felt comfortable with that, the way he's treated people.

"You guys don't even know how he's handled people that used to play here, used to work here, all that stuff. You just see that and then you have your own dealings with him. I'm very lucky to have that type of thing."

With a space in the retired numbers between Luis Aparicio's No. 11 and Ted Lyons' No. 16, it's widely assumed that Konerko's No. 14 will be retired during the ceremony to honor him on Saturday. Reinsdorf definitively stated that Konerko's number will be retired and that he also is worthy of a statue, although he didn't give a time frame for either.

The toughest part, for Reinsdorf, will be when Konerko is not around next year at Spring Training. Baseball certainly will feel the departure of class acts such as Konerko and Derek Jeter.

"We need more Jeters, we need more Konerkos, we need more people like that. Because whether they want to be role models or not, they are role models," Reinsdorf said. "People like Paulie and Derek set a great example for the kids and we need to get more kids interested in the game. One of our problems is the average age of our fans is getting older. We've got to attract the kids and teenagers. Guys who play with class and don't get into trouble bring people like that to the game.

"Actually, I was thinking the other day about [Konerko's] popularity, in a way, is a tribute to the intelligence of our fans. In my 35 years, who were the two most popular [White Sox] players? Harold [Baines] and Paulie. Neither one of whom said very much. But yet the fans loved both of the guys. It's really a tribute to our fans that they were able to sense what good guys they were even without them being out there and being characters."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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