Konerko makes return to White Sox
First baseman had been out for a week with right knee sprain
NEW YORK -- By Paul Konerko's estimation, he returned to action Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium about three or four days ahead of schedule from what he originally thought shortly after injuring his knee one week ago at home against the Blue Jays.
The White Sox posted a 3-2 record without Konerko in action. With Joe Crede, Jose Contreras and Carlos Quentin also down for extended periods of time, various records could be figured for each and every one of their respective absences.
Yet, Konerko stressed Tuesday how using injuries as an excuse for being a little off as a team or even missing the playoffs all together does not fall as acceptable reasoning.
"With the injury thing, every team in contention ... the Red Sox lost [David] Ortiz, Tampa Bay has lost [Evan] Longoria and [Carl] Crawford, the Angels lost starting pitching," Konerko explained. "It [stinks] you have to deal with it in September, but every team has dealt with missing some of their big guys for a month or more.
"May, June, whatever. It's all kind of even. There's no excuse. You got to deal with that kind of stuff. As for us, we have enough to win without the guys who went down. We don't want to have to deal with it, but we're victims of the same stuff other teams have gone through."
Upon his re-entrance into the starting lineup, Konerko made an immediate impact by snaring Bobby Abreu's first-inning line drive with runners on first and second and nobody out. The White Sox escaped the opening jam unscathed.
Konerko had taken ground balls at first base and did things such as taking throws off the bag and turning the double plays during his rehab period, but some things he couldn't simulate until getting on the field. Konerko suffered a mild sprain of the MCL in his right knee while pivoting to throw after cutting off a throw from Jermaine Dye in the nightcap of last Tuesday's doubleheader against the Blue Jays.
As Konerko has said on a couple of occasions since and repeated on Tuesday in New York, he feared for his livelihood and not just how quickly he would get back this season at the time of the injury. But credit goes to Konerko for his hard work, as well as huge plaudits given to White Sox athletic trainer Herm Schneider and assistant trainer Brian Ball.
"This guy got me back," said Konerko, pointing to Schneider as he walked past Konerko's locker.
Before suffering the injury, Konerko was on a bit of a hot streak with a .381 average and three home runs in his past 12 games. Konerko picked up right where he left off in his first at-bat Tuesday with a single to left off of Andy Pettitte. Konerko then laced an RBI double in a three-run fourth inning.
But just as Konerko explained how injuries can't be used as a crutch for a team coming up short, he won't worry about his own possible shortcomings at the plate caused by his week-long break. It's all about the team and reaching the postseason.
"Obviously, you don't see live pitching for a week, that's not a good thing, but I can't worry about that stuff," Konerko said. "We need a kick in the [butt] to get things going and win some games.
"Hopefully, that situation will override where we need to have at-bats. I feel good. My leg feels good. At the same time, I'm not going to try to do too much. I was swinging well and driving well, but I'm not going out there and trying to hit four home runs -- just have good at-bats."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.