2/15/2014 6:37 P.M. ET
Konerko commanding respect in farewell year
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The reaction toward Paul Konerko coming back for a 16th season with the White Sox before retiring was one of overwhelming excitement by pitchers and catchers Saturday.
"I'm glad he's going to be back," White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers said, adding that White Sox general manager Rick Hahn commented on Konerko's positive influence. "Then I hear some other people saying that can't be that important.
"Stuff like that is important. That is big for a team, especially with the young guys we have and the younger group we have overall. Having a guy like him is going to be huge for everybody; whether you're swinging bad or doing terrible and getting down on yourself. A guy like that can be a real good influence."
Flowers said he texted Konerko recently and asked, "Why aren't you here?" Konerko responded by texting, "I'm pacing myself, kid."
"Paul is the captain; it's going to be a lot different when he's not around," White Sox starter John Danks said. "We are going to be enjoying as much time as we can having him around, and hopefully he goes out with a bang."
"Especially after last year, no one wants to end on that kind of note; he deserves better than that," White Sox starter Chris Sale said. "That's what we're here to do. One last hurrah and see if we can make a splash for him."
Frontrunner at closer, Jones shut down
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nate Jones became the first injury of this year's White Sox Spring Training, just one day into camp, when he was sidelined with a mild to moderate strain in one of his glute muscles.
The injury started bothering Jones about seven to 10 days ago, and Jones mentioned it to White Sox head athletic trainer Herm Schneider when reporting on Friday, causing the team to get X-rays and an MRI exam on the injury, said general manager Rick Hahn. Jones will be held out of activity for the next few days and will be re-evaluated in the middle of next week.
"We're just trying to get the thing settled down and stay out in front of it before it becomes a real thing," Hahn said Saturday during his first Spring Training news conference at Camelback Ranch. "We're here for an extended period of time, so there's no need to rush through anything."
"It's nothing with his arms; it's a minor thing," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Jones. "It's just being cautious about him going out there and hurting it more, so just let him rest it and let it heal up. Him being a reliever, you're not really looking to extend him innings-wise. I just want him to be 100 percent before he starts going out there and throwing."
Jones, 28, is considered to have a slight edge for the closer's role vacated by the trade of Addison Reed to the D-backs. Ventura made it clear the competition was ongoing, with rookie Daniel Webb and veteran Matt Lindstrom also figuring into the mix.
It is certainly too early for Hahn and Ventura to analyze how Jones' pain will affect how the closer's role shapes up. The main goal is to get the hard-throwing right-hander back on the mound as quickly as possible.
"Obviously he's going to be a little bit behind," Hahn said. "But there has not been anyone anointed closer just yet, so it is an open competition, and this provides more opportunity for other guys to step up and fill the role. We should know more sometime next week how long this is going to be, but at this point we're not projecting out anything into the season."
"In dealing with Nate, we want him to be 100 percent," Ventura said. "It has nothing to do with anything else but him, regardless of our situation. We need him to be healthy to start the year."
Hahn prioritizing Draft above free agency
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The White Sox acquired third baseman Conor Gillaspie from the Giants during the second week of Spring Training last year, so it is not unusual for general manager Rick Hahn to start working the phones early. But the first day of camp, or even the first week, might qualify as a bit too soon to expect any sort of moves.
"We've had some exchanges going back to the last 10 days or two weeks," Hahn said. "But they were a lot more about, 'Let's get to camp and see how everyone is doing. See where we are at and sort of re-evaluate.'"
Hahn acknowledged the Gillaspie trade but described its timing as an anomaly. As for the White Sox pursuit of remaining free agents, possibly including another starter for the back end of the rotation, Hahn was not about to violate any Major League Baseball rules and address the topic. But judging by Hahn's statement on the record, the White Sox will not be adding any free agents that cost them a Draft pick, even with their first-round selection protected.
"I will say that we are certainly looking forward to having the size of the Draft pool we have right now," Hahn said. "That is part of what we are trying to do, one of the silver linings of an extremely disappointing season. It's the opportunity it provides you to flex some financial might in the Draft, and that's something we fully intend to do.
"Ideally, you show up in camp with plans A through D just in case something goes wrong, which inevitably it will somewhere. You just don't know where. So we feel like we protected ourselves in a fair number of areas with some backup plans, and some others we'll continue to look for some depth if the need arises."
Flowers embracing new approach at plate
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Tyler Flowers had changed his approach at the plate before his Sept. 5 season-ending shoulder surgery. It was a change Flowers thought would be greatly beneficial, but one he did not want to detail Saturday aside from saying it would be noticeable when he hits.
Flowers was willing to discuss the mental side of the change in his swing.
"Basically, I just decided at a point last year that I will do what I want to do more so," Flowers said. "I'm not going to be rude to the other coaches. Everybody is here to help everybody be better, but there comes a point where you become so uncomfortable and you get so many directions on things to try and do that you lose who you are and what feels good to you.
"That's more of where I'm at right now. I'm not just going to change everything just to please other people. I'll be comfortable and do, for the most part, what I want to do unless lack of success dictates a change."
Any further changes will not come until at least 20 games into the regular season, Flowers said.
"I'm going to stick with what I'm doing because I believe in it and I'm comfortable in it and it feels good," Flowers said. "It takes everybody time when you start in games. You see 92 mph that looks like 98 the first week of spring.
"There will be adjustments as far as reacting to speeds. But I will stick with what I'm doing, and you will see it when you watch me swing."
Third to first
• Reliever Ronald Belisario was the only one of the 36 pitchers and catchers not in attendance for Saturday's opening day of camp. The free-agent right-hander, who agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with the White Sox, is having visa problems getting out of Venezuela.
• After getting married to country performer Ashley Monroe during the offseason, Danks moved from Texas to Nashville. Danks enjoyed his new environment, aside from the cold, but still believes he is a Texan at heart.