Paul Konerko nearly left twice for free agency, and the thought of no longer playing baseball or wearing another uniform has crossed the mind of the slugger as he enters what could be his final season with the White Sox.

"I come in contact with more people now that played or are out of the game than the other way around, with the exception when I'm here," Konerko, who turns 37 on March 5, said Sunday before the Sox's first full-squad workout. "But the guys I play with, all my tight friends that I played with coming up, are out of the game. I see what the other side is, and there are pluses and minuses to that.

"I pick their brains on it. But you have to prepare. It's going to happen at some point as it does to every player. I'm not afraid of that. I'm not scared of it. I just want to go as hard as I can until it happens."

Konerko enters his 15th spring training with the Sox coming off a mercurial season in which he was hitting .399 on May 27 but batted .265 with only 15 home runs in the final four months. Konerko also had a floating bone chip in his left wrist that was removed immediately after the season, and he was nagged by neck and back ailments.

Manager Robin Ventura plans to employ designated hitter Adam Dunn more often at first base to give Konerko a rest. Dunn, who has two years left on his contract, could become the full-time first baseman in 2014 should Konerko depart.

Another possibility is left fielder Dayan Viciedo, 23, who played first for 59 games for Triple-A Charlotte and seven for the Sox in 2010. Such a move could pave the way for one of the Sox's top prospects, such as Jared Mitchell, to play left.

Konerko nearly left for free agency after 2005 (Angels) and 2010 (Diamondbacks) before the Sox struck last-minute deals. But he fully understands the landscape has changed, especially with his age, watching Sox mainstays Mark Buehrle and A.J. Pierzynski depart in successive seasons, finding a team that would want him as well as the fact he's now the father of three children and resides within driving distance of the Sox's spring complex.