01/28/12 5:03 PM EST
Adam '12: Dunn looks forward to new start
Slugger admits last season's memory lingered into offseason
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
It's understandable why an accomplished veteran slugger such as Dunn would want to forget about his historically bad debut with the White Sox, where he hit .159 with 11 homers, 42 RBIs and a franchise-record 177 strikeouts. The only problem for Dunn is that getting away from it wasn't quite as easy as he imagined.
"I thought I'd go through the offseason like, 'OK, whatever. It's over,' like I do everything else," said Dunn, speaking to the media after his first autograph session Saturday afternoon during SoxFest at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago.
"But I wasn't quite able to do that," Dunn continued. "For one, you couldn't go anywhere without people asking, 'What happened? What's wrong?' They were basically looking for me to say an excuse at some point. That ain't happening. Once the offseason went by ... all I can say is it's over and I can't wait for the season to start."
|"I thought I'd go through the offseason like, 'OK, whatever. It's over,' like I do everything else. But I wasn't quite able to do that."|
|-- Adam Dunn|
Prior to last season, marking the start of a four-year, $56-million deal with the White Sox, Dunn was one of the game's most feared sluggers. He joined Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ralph Kiner, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Duke Snider and Sammy Sosa as one of eight players to produce five straight 40-home run seasons (2004-09).
That track record leaves Dunn's teammates brimming with confidence that the 2011 campaign was one nightmarish aberration.
"I'm a big believer in that if a guy is healthy, and Adam is healthy, at the end of the day, it's going to come back around," said White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy. "It wasn't a fluke for 10 years what he did. It's a big adjustment period: new manager, new league. There was a lot of stuff to go into it.
"I've talked to Adam a lot. He's done all he could this winter. He'll bounce back. We need Alex [Rios] and some guys to bounce back, and, myself included, to take the reins and do what I've done in the past. We certainly can compete if that happens."
Dunn started out fine through four games last year, and then underwent the fateful appendectomy in Kansas City that sidelined him for one week. The big man was never the same from that moment moving forward, although he did produce 10 hits over five games during an early May West Coast trip.
From May 20 until the end of the 2011 season, Dunn's average never climbed above .200. His vast on-base potential, with six previous years of at least 100 walks, even disappeared.
In talking about Dunn during Friday night's SoxFest media session, general manager Ken Williams took the responsibility for Dunn's struggles in relation to how his return from the appendectomy was handled.
"If I had to do one thing over, one singular thing over from last year, I would have sat him out a week longer, at least, after he had the surgery, and got him some at-bats in the Minor Leagues to get his stroke back," said Williams. "He just never got it going."
Because Dunn never came close to his career numbers and was at the center of the White Sox underachieving 2011 campaign, he had to answer constant questions about personal failure. To Dunn's credit, he never dodged an inquiry, to the point where he knew the questions even before the reporter approached his locker.
There also were the non-stop boos from the home faithful, with Dunn hitting a mere .149 at U.S. Cellular Field and finishing just 6-for-94 against left-handed pitchers. Judging by the rousing ovation he received at a SoxFest seminar on hitting, White Sox faithful expect Dunn to bounce back.
Returning strong in 2012 allows Dunn to talk about Comeback Player of the Year, instead of discussing reasons for failure even when the season was complete. So, how did Dunn answer all of this inquiries coming in October and November?
"Like I'm responding now," Dunn said. "I'm not different with y'all than I am with everyone else. I realize it was tough to watch because my friends watch it, too. They had to answer the questions, too. Believe it or not, as tough as it was for y'all to watch, you weren't the one actually doing it or not doing it. So that's kind of the response I took.
"The first week [of the past offseason] was probably the greatest week, I don't want to say of my life because that would be a lie. But it was the week after the season, I can't put into words, but much needed.
"After about a week, I was ready to get back to doing stuff. I thought I wouldn't. But it was just a lot harder than I thought it would be. I thought I'd be able to go back home and blow it off and forget about it. I wasn't able to do that, which isn't exactly how I thought I would handle it.
"At this point right now, it's over," Dunn said. "As soon as we hit New Year's Eve, when I was in bed at 12:01 like everyone, that's a new year."
This new season has a good feel for Dunn on more than a personal level.
"We made two pretty good moves, I think this offseason. That was hopefully getting me and Alex back," Dunn said. "That's the way I'm looking at it. We pretty much have the same team. We lost a couple of key players. We have guys capable of stepping in and filling that role and do a little better. That's what we're expecting."