CSN Exclusive: Dunn wants Comeback Player of the Year

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CSN Exclusive: Dunn wants Comeback Player of the Year

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Towards the end of last season as Adam Dunn was closing out one of the worst hitting seasons in baseball history, he spotted White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson in the parking lot at U.S. Cellular Field.

Since Harrelson was on the microphone for most of his 177 strikeouts in 2011, Dunn probably felt bad for Hawk, a die-hard White Sox fan who could only sit, watch, and helplessly broadcast Dunns struggles live on the air game-after-game.

Dunn made Harrelson a promise.

I told him, Do you have to be hurt to win Comeback Player of the Year because if you dont its mine. Ive already claimed it, Dunn said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. I dont know if you get a trophy or what. Its not an award that I want to win but I havent won it, so I might as well win it.

The White Sox didnt win enough games last season, only 79 of them. Dunns well-publicized struggles had a lot to do with it. After batting just .159, its now Dunns mission to win back, not just his credibility, but an entire White Sox fan base that watched in agony and anger as he failed at such a clip it nearly put him in the record books.

What would it mean for Dunn to have the comeback year hes been thinking about since the final out of last season?

It would be huge. My goal is, I want to win Comeback Player of the Year, among other awards, Dunn said. Im not done. Im 32 years old. I keep hearing about this stuff and its borderline comical. How can you go from A to B and now youre done. It makes no sense.

No one knows what it was like to walk in Dunns shoes last year. Only Adam does. If you booed him, its very likely he heard it. The jeers became the soundtrack of his season. Reflecting back on what occurred, both on and off the field, one might assume that the experience made Dunn a stronger person. Adam disagrees.

You know, no. I feel like Im a strong person to begin with, he said.

But did he learn something? Plenty.

I learned a lot in the last year, and a lot about people, not just yourself. Who really cares about you and really cares about what you do. Theres a difference between that. As bad as it sounds, I think that it was meant to happen. I think you kind of weed out people that are around you and love you for the wrong reason.

One of Dunns closest friends is pitcher Jake Peavy, whose locker is right next to Adams both here at the White Sox spring training facility and at U.S. Cellular Field. Peavy had his own share of problems last season trying to stay healthy. However, that was nothing compared to what Adam and his family faced, bearing the brunt of a season that never turned around.

To watch his family kind of go through it with him I think was awfully tough, Peavy said. I think a lot of people dont think about that. Our families are sitting up there right with the fans, and we understand theres going to be heckling and talking, but when youre in your own home ballpark and youre trying as absolutely hard as you can, and you cant get out of a funk, its tough to have to sit up there and your kids have to listen to people yell about their dad. It was painful. Theres no doubt.

Dunn says that Peavy helped him get through his inner battles, a fight that continued as Adam remained his outward happy-go-lucky self. Whatever problems he was having, Dunn did his best to keep them at the ballpark.

I tried not to take it home, he said. My wife didnt deserve it, my kids didnt deserve it. It was hard for them to watch just like it was hard for me to do it. I made the conscious effort. If I had to stay at the ballpark two hours afterwards just to make sure that Im okay and not bring it home, then I would do that. Thats kind of how I dealt with it, to remember its baseball, its your job, its a game, your family has nothing to do with it.

Dunn enters the 2012 season with many skeptics who dont believe he can succeed at a high level in front of the bright lights of a big city. I brought up the perception that exists that he cant DH, that he cant excel in the American League, and that he cant play for a contender.

His reaction?

Okay. I mean, okay, apparently I cant. Ive only had one year and it wasnt very good, but Ive been told I cant do a lot of things and Im here.

Did the pressure to win and live up to the 4-year, 56 million contract he signed affect him?

I felt like there was a lot of pressure on a lot of people last year, and obviously didnt handle it well. I dont know why that is, myself included, Dunn said. I dont mind pressure. I put more pressure on myself than anybody can possibly put on one person, and Ive done okay with it.

Dunn describes his current state of mind as carefree. He added, Im in a great place right now, especially starting now not having to talk about last year.

So besides his prediction for winning Comeback Player of the Year, what else does Dunn expect for the upcoming season?

I expect to do what Ive done my whole life. Im not expecting to do anything more, anything less. Im expecting to go out and play 162 games at least. The numbers will be what they are in the end.

It's now a new beginning and he closed the interview with this:

I want people to expect great things, because I expect great things.

The season awaits.

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

White Sox likely will place 2B Brett Lawrie on disabled list

The White Sox will "probably" place second baseman Brett Lawrie on the disabled list before Wednesday’s Crosstown game at Wrigley Field, manager Robin Ventura said.

Lawrie initially was diagnosed with a tight left hamstring July 21 against the Detroit Tigers, causing a firestorm of speculation he had been traded when he was removed from the game. He was initially considered day-to-day after undergoing an MRI on Friday, and manager Robin Ventura said before both Monday and Tuesday’s games against the Cubs he could’ve been available in an emergency. 

But Lawrie suffered a setback sometime Tuesday, and with two games under National League rules at Wrigley Field requiring more bench pieces, Ventura didn’t want to head to Clark and Addison short-handed. 

“It just seemed like he was going backwards today, during the game, of his knee,” Ventura said. “There's no way you can go over there and play the National League rules with nobody on the bench.”

[MORE: Shields picks up bullpen as White Sox top Cubs again]

Infielder Carlos Sanchez was removed from Triple-A Charlotte’s game Tuesday night and is expected to replace Lawrie on the White Sox roster. 

Lawrie is hitting .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and 22 doubles over 94 games this season. 

Tyler Saladino has done well in his short stint in the starting lineup since Lawrie’s injury, going 4-15 with a walk. His walk-off single on Monday netted the White Sox their third win in what now is a four-game winning streak, the team’s first since May 6-9.

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

Tonight on CSN: Crosstown Classic shifts back to Wrigley Field

The Crosstown Classic continues on Wednesday at Wrigley Field as the White Sox square off against the Cubs on CSN Chicago. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Anthony Ranaudo (1-0, 17.18) vs. Jason Hammel (9-5, 3.35)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

'Bulldog' James Shields picks up White Sox bullpen in win over Cubs

James Shields offered a taxed bullpen a significant boost on Tuesday night.

It was the sort of performance that earned him the nickname “Big Game” earlier in his career.

The right-hander pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings and the White Sox offense did enough for a 3-0 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,553 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields lowered his earned-run average over his last seven starts to 2.11 as he worked around four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. The White Sox won their fourth in a row, including their second straight over the Cubs, and in doing so retained the Crosstown Cup. David Robertson recorded his 24th save in 28 tries with a perfect ninth.

“This is the guy we were thinking of when we got him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He came up big tonight, especially the way the bullpen is. I know he takes a lot of pride in that, he really does, of going out there and going deep into games. This is another one that we needed and he came through for us.”

An individual turnaround that began June 23rd in Boston reached its apex on Tuesday.

Since an atrocious three-start introduction to the White Sox, Shields has rediscovered some of the form that made him one of the top starters in the American League for the better part of a decade.

With the bullpen in need of a huge lift after throwing 19 1/3 innings in the previous four games, Shields delivered. White Sox relievers recorded only four outs and threw 19 pitches at time they needed it most. A number of close games and Chris Sale’s skipped start Saturday have White Sox relievers working in shifts to rest.

Shields provided that breather.

“He was a bulldog today, man,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He came out there and did what he had to do, saved the bullpen a little bit. You saw him out there. He was yelling at everybody, getting everybody fired up. That’s all you can ask for from him.”

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All Shields could request of his teammates is to spare a few runs. They produced three for a pitcher who entered the game ranked 130th among 138 qualified starters with a 3.2 runs-per game support average.

Jose Abreu made it 1-0 in the first with an RBI single to score Adam Eaton, who hit a solo homer in the fifth off Kyle Hendricks. Tyler Saladino also forced in a run with a bases-loaded walk, the third straight free pass issued by reliever Travis Wood.

Shields took advantage of the limited support and put himself in better position to pitch deep into the game with quick innings in the fourth and fifth. At 56 pitches after three, Shields needed only five to retire the side in the fourth and nine more in the fifth.

He had more than enough to get out of trouble in the sixth inning. Having retired 12 of 13 into the sixth, including the first two outs, Shields walked Addison Russell and Jason Heyward singled. But Shields -- who also got Dexter Fowler to pop out on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded in the second inning -- retired the dangerous Javy Baez on a foul ball down the left-field line to keep the White Sox ahead by two.

“They worked the count in the second inning,” Shields said. “I had a few walks there. We had La Stella out, but he had catcher’s interference. I probably threw a little extra that inning, and I had to get myself back in the game as far as pitch count, and I ended up doing that the very next inning.”

The ability to make big pitches and pitch deep into games stems from the comfort Ventura thinks Shields has rediscovered on the mound. The stretch of four starts, including his last with the Padres, in which he allowed 31 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings and was singled out by his former team’s owner for poor performance, couldn’t have done Shields any favors. But little by little, Shields has worked his way back.

Shortstop Tyler Saladino said the renewed confidence is easy to see when Shields is on the mound. Saladino said Shields will engage his infielders and even position them at times, knowing and trusting where they are.

“He starts to feel that confidence that he’s making his pitches, he’s getting his outs, he’s in charge,” Saladino said. “And when you’re behind him watching all that going on, and he’s giving you feed back when you come back in, you just know that he’s locked in. So you just go with it, the flow of him and everything.”