Konerko down with recurring thumb injury
Pained slugger optimistic about returning to lineup shortly
CHICAGO -- The right thumb pain felt by Paul Konerko, a malady he has battled for the past two seasons, flared up during Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Detroit before the fateful at-bat in the seventh inning that led to his exit.
In fact, when facing Justin Verlander to lead off the fifth, the consummate hitter turned to a pain-induced offensive approach that he never followed before.
"My second at-bat last night was the first time I've ever been taking with two strikes," said Konerko with a wry smile, addressing his injury in the White Sox clubhouse before Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Tigers.
"That's not a recipe for success, I can tell you that much," Konerko said. "That's when I kind of knew, 'OK, let's take a step back here, this is stupid. This is kind of what I was doing last year.'"
Konerko was out of Thursday's lineup, with Josh Fields replacing him, although Fields used a first baseman's glove provided by the team captain. Judging by Konerko's pained expression after Verlander jammed him on a seventh-inning groundout to second, it looked as if a trip to the disabled list could be possible.
But both Konerko and manager Ozzie Guillen sounded optimistic concerning Konerko's return in Milwaukee sometime this weekend. Konerko was to receive a shot in the sore area Thursday, the same sort of shot he took in March during Spring Training, and he said the benefits usually are felt immediately.
"I wish I could do that once a week, but you can only do it once every couple months," said Konerko of the shot, which he had hoped to hold off having until the All-Star break. "We'll just do it now, and it's just a little bump in the road. I'll be back out there.
"It's no different than anything I've had last year and in the past. It's just trying to manage it to keep the pain down, and sometimes it gets to the point where you can't do what you want to do out there. That's kind of where it's been the last couple of days, last night for sure."
This situation involving Konerko, which is described as a stretched ligament near his right thumb, becomes a little more troublesome for the White Sox considering their schedule. Interleague action resumes this weekend, with the White Sox playing their next nine contests against the Brewers, Cubs and Reds at National League ballparks.
Jim Thome's potent bat will moved to the bench, rendering him a pinch-hitter, and he will be replaced by White Sox pitchers stepping to the plate. If Konerko is absent for a longer period than he envisions, Guillen would then need another player on the roster.
"Fields will get the first shot, and then it's [general manager Ken Williams'] decision what we need," Guillen said. "Do we need a guy in the middle infield or a guy who can play third or first? I cannot go more than five days without PK. National League games are pretty tough.
"He should be available tomorrow. It's not a bone bruise. It's just the ligament. Every time he gets hit there, it stretches. He's been dealing with this for a long time. Even in good years and bad years, he's been dealing with this. We're going to go day-by-day. I asked him this morning, he said he should be ready tomorrow."
Some pain actually started for Konerko back in Anaheim at the end of May, and he knew the ensuing series would be tough in Kansas City and during this 12-game homestand. That trouble could account for Konerko's .211 average in June.
His hope was to get to Sunday without missing any action and then taking advantage of Monday's off-day. But with a proactive treatment approach brought about from what he experienced last year, Konerko feels good about getting through the first two months relatively unscathed and highly productive.
"To get through April and May, those were the months that concerned me because of the weather," Konerko said. "All in all, it's been good this year. I've made it through the first 60 games with it. It's always going to be there, it's just a matter of managing it. We just have to get the pain to where it's not affecting the way I swing a bat."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.