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Beckham, Thome happy Konerko opted to return

Second baseman didn't want veteran to go out on heels of 99-loss season

LISLE, Ill. -- Gordon Beckham had three primary reasons in wanting Paul Konerko to return to the White Sox for a 16th and final season.

The White Sox second baseman didn't want the captain to end his stellar career with the 99-loss White Sox debacle of 2013. He wanted a healthy Konerko to have another shot after battling issues with his back last year. And the third one was a little more personal.

When Konerko left U.S. Cellular Field to a thunderous ovation in the second inning of the final game of the '13 campaign, Beckham chose not to shake hands with his friend and mentor. Beckham didn't want to acknowledge that moment might be Konerko's last one with the White Sox.

"I didn't want to regret that decision for rest of my life," Beckham told during a phone interview. "I told him, 'I'm not shaking it. I want you to come back.'

"I'm glad he is. We are great friends, and he has a wealth of knowledge needed to help out young guys. There are guys coming in that need to see Paul's work ethic and what it takes for someone who wants to be good. It's a no-brainer, a special thing to have him. I'll soak up as much as I can from him."

Jim Thome was one of the people who Konerko spoke to before making his decision to return for one more season and then agreeing to terms with the White Sox on a one-year, $2.5 million deal with $1 million deferred. Thome played as a full-time force into the 2009 season, accumulating 612 homers overall for his Hall of Fame-worthy 22-year career, before the White Sox traded him to the Dodgers on Aug. 31, 2009.

Thome served as a pinch-hitter for the Dodgers and then played three more seasons as a part-time player with the Twins, Indians, Phillies and Orioles. His plate appearance high during that time was 340 with the Twins in '10, when he launched 25 home runs.

According to Thome's comments during Sunday's youth hitting clinic at the Bulls/Sox Academy, where he served as an instructor, getting those extra days off as Konerko will in a part-time situation can only benefit the veteran at this point of his career.

"What this is going to do and it did for me when I went to Minnesota, it's going to give his body two to three, how many ever days he gets off a week, and it's going to help him mentally," said Thome, a special assistant to White Sox GM Rick Hahn. "Paul has been a run producer for a lot of years. He's been an iconic figure for the White Sox for years.

"This is going to give him an opportunity to rest his body. When he does play, he's going to feel great, but then it's going to give him time to be the leader that he is, but to another level. He's going to have time to spend with the young guys and truly let them know the way he was taught to play."

Konerko said recently that he wouldn't have come back if asked to play full-time and has been processing being in a platoon or serving as a reserve/leader since last season.

"He needs to know this is it. Every day will be a joy to him if he knows," Beckham said of Konerko. "That will shine through, and he'll take it and run with no time to get down or look back. I could tell that he wanted one more year. It's good for him, good for everybody. Nobody is going to let down on his last season, not that you would anyway. I'm very excited and happy for him."

"It gives him an opportunity to come back to a place that loves him, where the fans love him and I think he loves the organization," Thome said. "It's a win-win all the way around."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.

Chicago White Sox, Gordon Beckham, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome