BALTIMORE - It's hard to know what's a bigger pain to Paul Konerko: The discomfort in his calf that causes him to hobble around the bases or answering questions about it.
Asked if it's the toughest thing he's ever played through, Konerko said, "If it is I don't even want to go into it. Does it really matter? Listen, I'm playing. If there is anything else to report, I'll let you know. That's all I got for you.''
Konerko, the team captain, is leading by example. The Sox desperately need his bat as they try to chase down the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians down the stretch.
"It's impressive,'' teammate A.J. Pierzynski said. "I know how much pain he's in because we talk about it a lot. We all know that. It would be nice if he was healthy so he could play first base. But he's doing whatever he can now to help us win games. He doesn't have to be out there but he is. It's something you admire.''
Almost everyone is playing through some physical issue at this time of year, but Konerko's merits an excused absence. It didn't prevent him from going 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored on Thursday night.
"Everyone -- the manager, coaches, players, fans, front office people -- should tip their hat to him,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He's playing with a lot of pain. It's very uncomfortable to see him running.''
Konerko labored to second with a stand-up double in the first inning, and then to home on a double by Carlos Quentin. As Guillen said, it's not a comfortable sight.
"He wants to play and help us and that's why Konerko is a very special guy in this organization,'' Guillen said.
Konerko's teammates have ribbed him about it, drawing comparisons to former Tiger and current Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson, who famously hit a World Series homer on one good leg.
"A couple of guys give him trouble, calling him 'Gibby,' '' said Thursday night's winning pitcher, Mark Buehrle. "Every time he jogs into second base we're looking for the fist pump. For him, it's got to be killing him. He's out there giving his all. He's not the fastest guy any way, and with this injury it makes him even slower. But he's giving it everything he's got.''
Konerko doesn't want to hear that he's anything special. He'd tell you he's just doing what he gets paid to do. Pierzynski admires it, while knowing it comes with the territory.
"In this game, you're going to play hurt. It's just the way it is,'' Pierzynski said. "This time of year, they call it the dog days. We've played 110-120 games, you're beat up and tired and you find a way to get through it. Paulie's done that, and we have a lot of guys who are playing through stuff.''
Konerko hiked his average to .306. He is batting .324 with 16 homers and 43 RBI in his last 58 games.