Robin Ventura expects Paul Konerko to rejoin the White Sox on Friday. Accounting for the uncertainties of concussions, everything is checking out for Konerko so far. He'll fly to Kansas City, participate in some pre-game activities and see how he feels.
The Sox need a healthy Konerko in the center of their lineup, as much as any team needs a .316/.388/.504 line instead of a bench potluck. But the Sox have survived without their Captain's services over the eight games he's missed, going 5-3 and stretching their lead from a half-game to 2 1/2 games. Better yet, they're three ahead in the loss column, which is the preferred way to hold that half-game advantage.
How is the lineup holding up so well? Well, for one, Konerko wasn't hitting much before Jarrod Dyson's elbow sidelined him. After going 4-for-4 against Minnesota to raise his average to .336 on July 24, he's 8-for-47 (.170/.231/.298) since. Even with an unimpressive bench, a multi-headed replacement stood a good chance of outperforming the Konerko they had lived with for nearly two weeks.
As it turns out, the stand-ins weren't just able to fill the shoes of Konerko Lite. They were good enough for Konerko Plus.
Ventura used Konerko's absence to rotate various players around, so you have to hunt from game to game and find the player pressed into service that day. The search is worth the time, because the olio of reserves packaged itself as "I Can't Believe It's Not Paulie!" (/oleo joke).
Konerko-By-Committee has an eight-game hitting streak going, and that only scratches the surface. Feast your eyes on this line:
This outstanding collection pumps out all your favorite party-time hits from one convenient lineup spot, including:
- Jordan Danks' REDDICKDUDNMOOOOOO!
- Dewayne Wise's first White Sox homer since 2009!
- A single by Orlando Hudson!
- The new longest home run of the year!
(Yes, Adam Dunn claim to the White Sox's longest homer of 2012 lasted one full game before Tyler Flowers broke it with this 470-foot blast on Thursday night. If you missed it, just look at Flowers' face after making contact:
(May we all feel something so pure.)
Of course, you can't expect a multi-headed replacement comprising a backup catcher, two discarded veterans and a suspect Triple-A outfielder to keep producing like an All-Star first baseman. Konerko can -- if he's 100 percent, anyway -- and that's why he makes the big bucks.
If nothing else, though, this performance by the Konglomerate is just another delightful development in an incredibly enjoyable season. A bench that has been rightfully derided for its ability to contribute replacement-level production, even after turning over all but one of its original parts, is forced to step in for the team's most established hitter in the middle of the pennant race, and it actually raises the bar.
Konerko should have some time to get reacclimated, especially if Dayan Viciedo has finally turned a corner (he's working on a seven-game hitting streak). But maybe it'll be like 2008, when a DL stint for a rib cage strain allowed him to also rest the bruised thumb that bothered him most of the year, and he ended up hitting like mad over the final two months. That's probably asking for too much, but hey, this season keeps finding ways to surprise us.