Thome brings out best from Konerko


CHICAGO – Consider these Paul Konerko numbers:

April 2005: .218 average, 17 RBI;

Eleven games of April 2006: .356, 12 RBI.

What’s the difference?

Jim Thome?

“He means a lot to the lineup,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said Saturday after Konerko hit a pair of homers in a 4-2 victory over Toronto. “The reason I bat him third is because I know he gets on base a lot. Paulie can get to bat (in the first inning) with two outs.”

So it was in the first inning Saturday when Thome walked and Konerko picked up two RBIs with a massive homer to left field.

“(Thome) walks 100 times a year usually,” Konerko said. “His on-base percentage is really high. Having him (hit) in front of me (creates) just as much action as hitting behind me. When you get that at-bat in first inning with a guy on, you have a chance to do something.

“He is such a presence, even when he makes outs, he has a long at-bat.

“You can tell a lot of focus is going into him in (the opposing) dugout. Which is the way it should be. He’s the most dangerous hitter right now in the game. I just come up behind him and try to be ready in case they slip up and throw a fastball over the plate.”

Konerko is getting plenty of RBI opportunities, because even though Thome is hitless the last two games, he has been on base. He has scored a run in each of the Sox’s 11 games and his .520 on-base percentage is the highest on the team.

Thome, who doesn’t talk much about himself, downplays his fast start.

“As a player, you don’t think about it that much,” he said.