05/12/12 12:35 AM ET
Dunn regains stroke, ends strikeout string
By Bradford Doolittle / Special to MLB.com
After enduring one of the most perplexing season-long slumps in Major League history, Dunn is back to having the same kind of season he cranked out for 10 years before joining the White Sox as a free agent last season.
Dunn hit his 11th homer in Friday's 5-0 win against the Royals, and has gone deep seven times in his last 12 games. He also entered the series opener leading the American League in walks before adding two more to his total.
Dunn's slugging percentage (.628) and on-base percentage (.401) are both well over his career marks. In fact, that 1.029 OPS would be a career high if he keeps it up all season.
Even the strikeout story got better on Friday. He entered the game leading the AL with 47 whiffs and had struck out in 36 consecutive games dating to last season. Only Bill Stoneman -- at 37 games -- has had a longer streak since 1918. For Dunn, it's just part of the equation.
"I think it matters more when you strike out than how often," Dunn said. "I go up there having a plan of what I want to do."
Last season, Dunn hit just .159 with 11 homers -- a total he matched on Friday, just under six weeks into the season. He's striking out about as often as last season, but that's been more than offset by the power and patience. White Sox manager Robin Ventura just wants Dunn to keep doing what he's doing.
"It's been good," Ventura said. "I hope it gets better, I really do. I hope he keeps going. For me, this is kind of what you expect. You expect him to hit a lot of homers and get on base. That's what I expected from him."
Dunn led the National League in strike outs three consecutive seasons during his days with the Reds, but says that strikeouts are at least in part a byproduct of a patient approach.
"If it's not there, I'm not going to swing," Dunn said. "Believe it or not, I know the strike zone pretty good."
Nevertheless, Dunn said he's often bewildered at his strikeout totals, adding that he "hates striking out more than anyone."
After going 2-for-2 with a homer, a ground-rule double and two walks, there was nothing for Dunn to hate on Friday.
Ventura mulling three-way closing committee
CHICAGO -- Who's pitching the ninth? That's been a question asked of first-year White Sox manager Robin Ventura all season.
For one week, it looked like he had an answer: Chris Sale. Now that Sale is back in the rotation, the subject cropped up once again during Ventura's pregame press conference on Friday before the series opener against the Royals.
So who's the closer?
"Whoever ends up in the ninth inning," Ventura said. "We're back to that."
Rookies Addison Reed and Hector Santiago, plus veteran lefty Matt Thornton have all saved games so far this season, and Ventura said he'll continue to play mix and match with that trio.
"Addy had looked great at it," Ventura said. "With Jesse [Crain] being on the DL, it kind of moves people around a little bit. The last week, we kind of moved some people around in that role. I don't see that changing.
"We've got the opportunity to use Matt, Addison and Hector in that role. You're seeing what [opponents] are lined up with and [we'll] go from there."
Santiago has had the most save chances among the relievers, converting four of his six opportunities. However, he sports a 5.73 ERA and has allowed 17 hits in 11 innings. Reed, who entered the season as Chicago's top prospect, hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings, and is 2-for-2 in save chances.
"That's not an easy role," Ventura said. "With the amount of young guys that we have out there, it's just not a thing where we don't monitor. You always constantly monitor them. We have some guys doing very well in the situations they're brought in."
Thornton is 1-for-2 in save chances, and will likely be used only when the opponents have a string of lefties due to bat in the ninth.
"Addison's done well, so you probably look for him if they have a bunch of righties coming up," Ventura said. "You probably look for Matty if they have a bunch of lefties coming up. If it's a mix, we'll probably have Hector."
White Sox reliever Jesse Crain took another step in his recovery from a strained left oblique injury that's sidelined him since April 21.
Crain made his first rehab appearance on Friday, throwing a scoreless inning as a starter for Triple-A Charlotte. Crain struck out one batter and hit one, and threw 14 of his 21 pitches for strikes.
Third baseman Brent Morel missed his second straight game on Friday because of back soreness. Morel also missed Wednesday's game at Cleveland. Manager Robin Ventura said he was just being cautious with Morel.
"He's had some issues [over the] last week," Ventura said. "Just kind of monitoring. [It's] not enough to DL him. [We're] just giving him one more day. He'll start [on Saturday]."
Dunn's first-inning homer on Friday was the 376th of his career, moving him into a tie with former White Sox catcher Carlton Fisk for 68th place on the all-time list.
Bradford Doolittle is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.