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ANGELS NOTEBOOK: KONERKO ALMOST AN ANGEL.

Byline: Doug Padilla Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. - The right-handed power bat that got away this offseason squared off against the Angels on Wednesday, as Paul Konerko faced the team he nearly joined.

The White Sox slugger reiterated how close he was to signing with the Angels and there were nights he went to bed this winter convinced he would be moving west.

``I told them right at the beginning of the process, 'You guys don't need to sell yourself,' '' Konerko said. ``That's what made it so tough, is that they did everything right, they handled it right. They didn't make it easy. They made it as hard as it could be.

``I wish in some respects that if there was something that was glaringly bad about them. It would have been an easier decision.''

In the end, Konerko spurned the Angels' five-year $62 million offer for the White Sox's five-year, $60 million offer.

Konerko said he took some advice and went where he would be most comfortable. The person that gave him that advice was Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

``He stayed in Chicago for what were very important reasons to him and I respect those,'' Scioscia said. ``Paul's a very loyal guy. I think he would have been an incredible fit for us, but I definitely respect the reasons he had for staying in Chicago.''

The signing would have given the Angels a heart of the order that included Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Konerko. When the Angels failed to acquire Konerko, they deemed the next-best free agent not worth pursuing and decided to give a chance to some of the younger players in the organization.

The final offer from the White Sox came one day before Konerko was going to choose the Angels.

``They were straightforward and classy from the get-go,'' Konerko said of the Angels. ``The owner, Arte Moreno, is a great guy. That was another thing. There is no doubt that five years from now, six years from now, I think the Angels are still going to compete because he's just driven to win.''

--Lackey update: John Lackey threw a bullpen session and has targeted Friday for his first Cactus League start in a split-squad game against the Chicago Cubs at Mesa. Lackey first started feeling a tender shoulder two weeks ago and passed on starting the Feb. 28 intrasquad game.

--All-Star job? White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said Wednesday that Scioscia is his first choice to be one of his coaches at this season's All- Star Game in Pittsburgh. He also is leaning toward Kansas City's Buddy Bell. One thing that might foil the plan is that the Angels finish the first half in Oakland and Guillen is wary of Scioscia having to fly cross- country for All-Star festivities.

--One option left: Kevin Gregg doesn't seem to have the advantage in making the roster that he previously thought. Earlier this week, Gregg said he was out of options, which would have meant he could become a free agent instead of having to take a minor-league assignment.

An Angels official corrected that fact and said Gregg still has one more minor-league option.

--Colon OK: The Angels were in touch with coaches from the Dominican Republic team and got word that Bartolo Colon is doing just fine after his 50-pitch outing in Tuesday's WBC game.

``Bart's velocity was good and his action was good,'' Scioscia said.

Doug Padilla, (626) 962-8811, ext. 2758

doug.padilla(at)sgvn.com

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- Doug Padilla
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 9, 2006
Words:589
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