Fun has returned for slugger Dunn
White Sox DH stresses being ready for the long haul
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Adam Dunn is having fun playing baseball.
Sure, the White Sox have only suited up for two Cactus League contests and Dunn has just four trips to the plate. But here's the honest truth about the big designated hitter.
Even if things go south as they did for the 32-year-old last year, and we are talking deep south with his much talked about and analyzed .159 average, that feeling of fun isn't going to change.
"It's why you play. This is a fun game," Dunn told MLB.com before Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Angels at Diablo Stadium. "Sometimes, when you take that out and you take the fun part out of it ... . That's not who I am.
"That won't happen this year, I promise you. I don't care what happens."
While the left-handed slugger no longer really addresses 2011, every at-bat will be watched during Spring Training. How does his swing look? How does he feel at the plate? How is Dunn seeing the pitches?
Those questions are for media and fans to ask. Dunn believes the patient is doing just fine even without taking the temperature every day.
"I'm not treating this spring any differently than any other spring that I have been in," Dunn said. "The big picture is the season and as long as I'm ready for the season, I'll chalk it up as a successful spring.
"I feel good right now early. But I'm just trying to get ready for the season."
Gordon Beckham, following a comeback trail of his own at the plate, doesn't point to the back of Dunn's baseball card when addressing his potential for 2012 success. It stands to reason that the man tied for second with Babe Ruth for the most consecutive seasons (seven) with at least 38 homers and the player featuring 10 seasons of 70-plus walks since 2002, tied with Bobby Abreu and Lance Berkman for the top spot in that category, won't let one lousy season define his career.
The White Sox second baseman simply has watched Dunn during the early part of camp and drawn his own conclusion.
"Look at him from last year to this year and you can see a difference in the way his swing is going," said Beckham. "You can just see it. It's a different swing.
"Listen, he's not going to hit .300. He's going to hit .250 with 40 [homers], that's what he's going to do. So, I think he looks a lot better this year than last year in terms of everything. We are all excited about the new year, and I think he's really excited about it too. Why not?"
As for having Dunn's personality mixing throughout the clubhouse, Beckham quickly responded, "Just a great teammate."
In Dunn's first Cactus League at-bat Monday, he grounded out to short right field against starter Chad Billingsley with the shift put on by the Dodgers. Dunn walked in his second at-bat.
The Angels' Garrett Richards walked Dunn on five pitches in the first inning of Tuesday's contest at Diablo Stadium, with Dunn getting the green light on 3-0 and fouling off the pitch. He worked the count full in the third, fouled off another pitch and then took ball four with Beckham breaking for second.
Not exactly tape-measure shots on Dunn's spring resume. But as White Sox manager Robin Ventura pointed out Tuesday, it's a good sign when a man with a .374 career on-base percentage is consistently reaching first.
"Yeah, the stuff he's working on, he looks good," Ventura said of Dunn. "He gets a lot of walks, too. When he's looking good at the plate and swinging it all right, he's going to walk a lot because people don't want to come to the strike zone. Even though he's walking, I like what I'm seeing."
When asked about what he regularly tries to gain offensively from Spring Training, Dunn provided a similar answer to the one given Monday by Beckham. Some games he'll want to see the spin on a curve or get a look at changeups, so he'll take some pitches. Then, there will be other days when Dunn wants to come in and get his hacks and kind of get his timing down.
Nowhere on Dunn's list of things to do is, "Get three or four hits in a Cactus League game."
"You want to see some pitches and the result ... . Who cares?" said Dunn, who realizes he needs to maximize the two at-bats he'll receive in the early spring games. "I kind of fight on what I want to do each day."
Each day's plan could change for Dunn, but don't look for his attitude to waver. John Danks saw that sharp wit live on Tuesday, when Dunn humorously wore out the left-hander about bouncing his changeup three or four times in front of home plate while Dunn was playing first. He suggested Danks provide his credit card number to Diablo Stadium to replace the divots.
Feeling better at the plate compared to this time in 2011 isn't the reason for Dunn's upbeat demeanor. To be honest, he can't remember his swing from the start of last year.
"Now, the 2012 swing feels good. That's all I know," Dunn said. "The first day of camp was kind of the new beginning, but my thing, I want to stay healthy and play every game.
"If that happens, then the numbers will take care of itself. That's the only goal I really set."