CHICAGO -- The question has been looming over Paul Konerko the entire season, but with three games left to play in 2013, the White Sox captain wasn't yet ready to provide an answer.
The player general manager Rick Hahn said has become "the face of the franchise" will take a month away from a trying season to decide whether he will return to play in 2014 or retire after 17 years in the major leagues, 15 with the Sox.
"I could go fish out 20 guys in that clubhouse that don't feel like playing a baseball game right now, and I'm probably right there with them," Konerko said. "But how much of that is real? Because I guarantee you as November clicks in, December, they're going to want to play again, and so will I. But I'm in a different situation. I have to figure out of it's really real, if that's something I want to do. I don't know that answer right now."
In a 23-minute session with the media Friday in the dugout before the Sox's game against the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field, Konerko weighed his options publicly for the first time. Despite his uncertainty, something he said has burdened him this season, the 37-year-old first baseman/designated hitter was able to provide a few concrete answers.
Should Konerko return in 2014, it would be his last season. If he decides to play, he would prefer it be with the Sox.
The only place he would consider being a part-time player is in Chicago. Playing elsewhere next year would be tough but would be considered if he really wanted to play and couldn't reach a deal with the Sox.
Hahn said he expects to wait a few weeks before sitting down with Konerko to discuss what Konerko wants and, if that's a return, how he would fit with the Sox's plans.
Konerko said among his considerations will be his desire to come back from one of the club's worst seasons ever, the need to spend more time with his wife and three children and his physical capability to play another year, which he said goes beyond games to the demands of travel and offseason work.
"You have to be able to absorb all of that work," Konerko said. "I go back and forth on that kind of stuff because I've done this for almost 20 years professionally. It does get tough. At the same time, if you frame it like, what's another 180 days, 200 days? If you sit there and say, after all you've done, can you just bust it for that much longer? Then it seems like, yeah, you can do that. You always can do a little more than you think."
Konerko also said he will think about his fit with a retooling Sox organization and knows a return might mean readjusting his own expectations for how he can contribute to the team, including more work with young players.
In 123 games this season entering Friday, he was hitting .248, below his career average of .281. He has 12 home runs and 54 RBIs, his lowest totals since joining the Sox in 1999.
"I feel like I've always, since I've been a little kid, earned my way onto the playing field," Konerko said. "No one did a favor for me. ... I'm not quite sure I can say that right now for next year. So that's a problem with me.
"If I'm back here, I want it to actually make sense. Assuming that I come to that conclusion that I want to play, that has to make sense for the other side because the White Sox have always been honest with me and treated me well. I'm not looking to power-play somebody into a job. That's just not who I am."
If he doesn't play again, Hahn said he can see Konerko contributing to the Sox in the future in another role, though Konerko said it would be a while before he took another job in baseball because of family considerations.
Sox closer Addison Reed is among many players who said Konerko is capable of -- and wanted for -- another season as a player.
"He has that captain label for a reason," Reed said. "Just to have his presence in the locker room is awesome. Every team could learn from a guy like him and would benefit from having a guy like him in the clubhouse. ... It's going to be sad if this is the last time I will play with him, but hopefully it's not."
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