The Chicago White Sox cleared a roster spot for expected return of captain Paul Konerko on Monday, optioning infielder Brent Morel to Triple-A Charlotte following Sunday’s game.
Morel went 0-for-3 while starting at third base Sunday in Chicago’s 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves, dropping his average to .200 in 12 major league games this season. He had just one RBI in 25 at-bats.
Konerko landed on the disabled list July 3 due to a lower back strain. He went 4-for-10 in three rehab games for Double-A Birmingham, including a three-hit game Saturday.
“(Saturday) night he was swinging it pretty good,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Health-wise, he’s looking good. Any time you get Paulie back, it’s important for a lot of different reasons.”
Konerko played 34 games at first base and 33 at designated hitter before the injury. Ventura wants to use a continued split with the hope that less time in the field will keep him fresh and offer less pressure on his back.
“He likes being on the field, and you want to take care of him in a way that you know you’re taking care of his back,” Ventura said. “Him and Adam (Dunn) both like being on the field, so you try and mix it up a bit.”
Before landing on the DL, Konerko was hitting .249 with a .314 on-base percentage, a .368 slugging percentage, seven homers and 30 RBIs in 67 games this season. He missed six games with soreness in his back, returned to go 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Baltimore Orioles on July 2, then went on the DL the next day.
In other White Sox injury news, second baseman Gordon Beckham sat out Sunday due to a sore left wrist. He’s likely to miss at least one or two more games.