Strained oblique lands Konerko on DL
Slugger shelved for first time in career; veteran Wise recalled
CHICAGO -- Batting practice was about two swings away from being finished for Paul Konerko on Sunday, when the White Sox first baseman and captain took one swing too many leading up to the series finale against the Rockies.
"It wasn't anything out of the ordinary," said Konerko on Tuesday of his swing in the cages that caused the White Sox team leader to be scratched from Sunday's contest, and in turn, placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 15, with a Grade 1 strain of his left oblique muscle.
"I swung and kind of released with my top hand, which I do a lot anyways," added Konerko, who said the problematic swing came on a pitch that was a strike but down in the zone. "It didn't hurt; I just felt something give. I stepped out for a second, then got back in and tried to take two swings. Then it was sore."
Konerko's injury marked the first trip to the disabled list of his 12-year Major League career and also set off a few ensuing moves to compensate for his temporary departure. Nick Swisher, who has played 52 games as an outfielder this season, will move to first base, with manager Ozzie Guillen adding with a smile how he doesn't really have any other first basemen left to use. Tuesday marks Swisher's 14th game at first this season.
Outfielder DeWayne Wise was called up from Triple-A Charlotte to replace Konerko on the roster. This is the second stint this year with the White Sox for Wise, 30, who was hitting .319 with nine home runs and 15 stolen bases for the Knights. Wise was 0-for-5 in six games with the White Sox from May 23-31.
Other seemingly more popular options among the fan base were fleet-footed leadoff man Jerry Owens, who led all rookies with 32 stolen bases last year, or Brad Eldred, who leads all Minor Leaguers with 24 home runs. But even before Owens injured himself during Tuesday's first game of a doubleheader between the Knights and Richmond, Wise was the choice made within the organization.
Wise provides the best combination of speed, versatility and a little bit of offensive pop, at this point. The veteran was in the starting lineup on Tuesday against Pittsburgh and figures to split time in center field with Brian Anderson and Alexei Ramirez. Juan Uribe will start at second base when Ramirez is in center.
"Well, I'll tell you, he will be faster than Konerko. He can run backwards, and he'll be faster than Paulie," said Guillen with a laugh. "But, you know, we need that. That's the reason [general manager] Kenny [Williams] brought him up."
"With D. Wise up here, I'm pretty sure he'll get his fair shot against righties, which is a good matchup," Anderson added. "He's a good ballplayer and has been around the game a while. Any chance I get, I'm going to try to take advantage."
Anderson spoke of how the only injury he had close to Konerko's malady took place this past spring. When someone threw him a pitch up and in, he jolted back and felt something in his abdomen. Anderson said he was struggling for the next couple of days following this instance.
In Konerko's particular case, the truly durable leader said presently it's painful to raise his voice, laugh, cough or anything of that nature. The plan is for Konerko not to do anything physical during the first week and then build from there.
Jim Thome strained a muscle in his right ribcage in 2007, a somewhat similar injury, and was out of action from April 28-May 20.
"Always when you lose your fourth hitter, the lineup is gonna be a little weaker," Guillen said. "But I expect those guys to step it up a notch. And we have to deal with that. As soon as that happened, I knew [Konerko going to the DL] was gonna happen."
"Losing him is a big hole for us to fill," Swisher added. "Not only all the things that he's capable of doing on the field, but all the things he bring to us in the locker room. He's the king. He's our leader. But I know regardless of whether he's on the field, he's gonna help lead as best he can."
This break for Konerko, who was hitting .215 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs in 62 games this season, also will present extra time for soreness near his right thumb to clear up even more. Konerko isn't worried about having individual statistics play out lower than his impressive yearly average when all is said and done, knowing he'll have a good three months when he returns to contribute to the White Sox first-place push.
Staying atop the American League Central is what matters most to Konerko, a lofty status his teammates will try to hold on to during his first official two-week period of inactivity as a big leaguer.
"He doesn't have speed, so he ain't going to pull his quad or his hammies," said White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle of Konerko's first trip to the disabled list. "When you see guys going on the DL two or three times a year, for him never to go on the DL says a lot about what he does to get ready, preparation for the game and all season what he does to get ready for the season."
"I'm a little bit lost," Konerko added. "You just try to turn a negative into a positive. Hopefully the guys can keep playing well, and when I come back off, I can step in and do the job."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.