GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Paul Konerko went hitless in three at-bats during the Reds' 7-3 victory over the White Sox on Sunday at Camelback Ranch.
Konerko entered the game with eight hits in his last nine at-bats, so going without a hit ranks as a big story amid Cactus League action. These Spring Training statistics mean very little in terms of regular-season success, but hitting coach Jeff Manto believes the White Sox captain is ahead of schedule in terms of his preparation.
"His hands are freer earlier than they have been in the past, he says," Manto said of Konerko's swing. "He's having a lot of good at-bats. He's the lowest maintenance guy we have. You look at him and know what you are going to get. He has moved his progress along quickly."
Manto certainly isn't about to guess about Konerko's future past his 17th season in the Majors and 15th as part of the White Sox. As Konerko stated early in camp, that decision will be made by him and his family at the end of this current campaign.
With Konerko's hard work and vast knowledge of his swing, let alone the game itself, production over the next few years should not be a question for the first baseman if he decides to continue.
"As long as I'm sure he feels he can contribute, he's going to play," said Manto. "He knows what he's doing. He can wake up out of bed and hit a line drive.
"He'll make that decision when that time comes. That production is never going to go down. He can play the small game, big game, any game you want him to play."
His 422 career homers would label Konerko as a power hitter. But Konerko really is more of a skilled hitter with power.
"A lot of these guys hit the home runs without the average. Paul is an exception," Manto said. "He does a lot of great things, not good things."