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W Sox try to measure success in Ventura's 1st year

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP)

Paul Konerko figures the Chicago White Sox can be successful this season, even if they fall short of the playoffs.

Before the White Sox's first full-squad workout of spring training Tuesday, Konerko said he wasn't conceding the season. But he noted that the White Sox have several young players and a new staff led by first-time manager Robin Ventura.

''Cleveland last year, not that they won the division, but all in all I think it was a very successful season.'' said Konerko, who is entering his 16th major league season and will turn 36 next Monday. ''But this year this (White Sox) team is different from a lot of teams we had recently. I hope I don't throw anybody off with this -- this can be a very successful year without making the playoffs.''

Konerko tempered his comments by saying the Sox could compete, and there's ''a fine line'' between first-place division teams and those that finish second and third. If young players such as third baseman Brent Morel, second baseman Gordon Beckham and reliever Addison Reed produce good seasons, that can be a success, Konerko said.

''Those are all good signs it's moving in the right direction,'' said Konerko, who was a candidate for player-manager before the White Sox hired Ventura last October.

The White Sox finished 79-83 and third in the AL Central last season, missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Manager Ozzie Guillen and ace Mark Buehrle headed to the Miami Marlins, and the White Sox were left to rebuild.

Ventura said he understood Konerko's perspective.

''If we play well and play good team baseball, it can be (a success), but we're obviously looking for more than just that,'' Ventura said.

Off-the-field issues distracted the team last season, Konerko said. After managing the team for eight seasons, a stint that included a World Series championship, Guillen was let go in September before the end of the season.

''There were definitely some times late in the year last year there were probably games and days given away because of people worrying about things that were not related to the game of baseball,'' Konerko said. ''(This year) I don't see that being an issue. I have a good feeling no matter what happens, whatever our record winds up being, you can look at that record and say, `That's what this team did.'''

Konerko is one of the team's few remaining veterans. He acknowledged the absence of Buehrle, who spent all 12 of his major-league seasons with the Sox.

''Not seeing Mark's locker, I don't know what to say other than it's not right,'' Konerko said.

Konerko said he believes that teammates who struggled last season - including Beckham, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn, who batted .159 last season - can bounce back. He especially sees promise in the 25-year-old Beckham.

''Knowing where he's at in his head, I think it's a good place,'' he said. ''I think he's going to have a big year.''

Last season, Konerko produced his fifth All-Star season. He hit .300 with 31 home runs and 105 RBIs. He and catcher A.J. Pierzynski are the last remaining members of the 2005 World Series team.

''I'm happy I won a World Series, and I'll always have that in my pocket. I'd love to get another one, but if I don't, that's cool too,'' Konerko said. ''I look at it this stage in my career, if it means I have to play two or three years, whatever it is, so I can hopefully leave here and help people and try to get this organization back on track, and I leave and those guys do the job, then that's fine. I think that's what I owe the team.''

Notes: In his first address to the whole team, Ventura said he emphasized having fun but also taking camp seriously. ''We're here to win games, but it's important for me and the staff they show up every day and give good effort,'' he said.

Tagged: White Sox, Marlins, Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko, Gordon Beckham

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