When Paul Konerko decided against retiring and re-signed with the White Sox both sides agreed that he’d be returning in a diminished role, but now that’s a reality: Konerko will not be in the Opening Day lineup today for the first time since 1998.
Konerko is slated to play mostly versus left-handed pitchers and Twins starter Ricky Nolasco is a right-hander. There was some thought to giving Konerko the start anyway, but the 38-year-old first baseman told manager Robin Ventura to treat it just like any other game and stick to the playing time plan.
That means Cuban slugger and $68 million offseason signing Jose Abreu will start in Konerko’s old spot at first base and Adam Dunn will get the nod at designated hitter. And as Ventura pointed out to Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com, maybe Konerko can come off the bench in a big moment and provide some Opening Day excitement that way.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Reds “have emerged as the frontrunner” to sign free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Morosi says the Reds and Castellanos “have made progress over the past several days.”
The Reds were going to have a lot of outfielders already when they hit Goodyear, Arizona in a couple of weeks, with newcomer Shogo Akiyama, Jesse Winkler, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino, Travis Jankowski, Scott Schebler, and Rule 5 draftee Mark Payton. Senzel was an infielder before last year, of course, so he could move back to the dirt, perhaps. And, of course, the Reds could trade from their outfield surplus if, indeed, they end up with an outfield surplus.
Without question, however, Castellanos would be the big dog, at least offensively, in that setup. He had a breakout year at the plate in 2019, hitting .289/.337/.525 overall (OPS+ 121), but slugging at a blistering .321/.356/.646 pace (OPS+ 151) after being traded from the Tigers to the Cubs. In Chicago — rescued from cavernous Comerica Park — his big doubles power turned into big homer power. If he were to sign to play half his season in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark one can only imagine the damage he’d do.