GLENDALE, Ariz -- Position players arent expected to report to White Sox spring training until Tuesday, but one-by-one the three hitters who struggled the most in 2011 all coincidentally arrived at Camelback Ranch on Saturday -- three days ahead of time.
Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham.
Those are signs to me that guys are hungry to come back and play well, said manager Robin Ventura. Theyre willing to do that for the team and thats important in that theyre showing everybody else on the team that theyre already in. Theyre willing to come in and work, and do whatevers necessary.
Coming off his nightmare season of 2011 in which he batted .159 with 177 strikeouts, Dunn showed up Saturday looking to put it all behind him. He took batting practice in the off-season for the first time in his career, and recently met with new hitting coach Jeff Manto in Houston to help prepare him for the season.
My main goal is to be ready for Opening Day, and thats what Ill do, Dunn said matter-of-factly.
The White Sox slugger believes hell have a comeback season. So does his new manager.
Hes had success in the past, and thats what Im counting on, Ventura said. Ive seen him play. Ive seen him do well. I want him to come and be prepared and do that. He has a clean slate.
The same goes for Beckham, billed as a future star with the White Sox after his impressive rookie season in 2009. Unfortunately, his hitting woes deepened last season, batting .230 with 111 strikeouts. Gordon came to Glendale with a brand new mind-set, which could end up becoming the unofficial slogan for the 2012 White Sox.
Dont care. Dont care. Honey badger. Were all going to be honey badgers. Were not going to care at all this year, said Beckham, referencing the viral YouTube video about the fearless predator.
Beckham was joking -- sort of.
He plans on making White Sox honey badger t-shirts for his teammates, anything to help lighten the load after they carried -- and failed to meet -- such high expectations last year.
I think sometimes I take it way too seriously, Beckham said. I want to do so well for this team and for the fans, for myself that sometimes it gets too much of me. Be a little more carefree this year. Not care so much.
That calmer attitude will likely work for Beckham. What about Dunn?
Thats probably not my problem. I have enough fun for at least 23 of us sitting here, Dunn said with a smile. Ill still be myself.
No one is exactly sure which Alex Rios will wear a White Sox uniform this season. His Jekyll and Hyde stint so far has been exciting and dumbfounding, and everything in between. After having his best major league season in 2010 in which he batted .284 with 21 homers, 88 RBIs, and 34 stolen bases, Rios slumped big-time in 2011, hitting just .227 with 13 homers, 44 RBIs, and 11 steals.
I want to start over and have a very productive and helpful year. Thats what Im looking for, Rios said. I dont have any doubts in my skills. I know that I can produce. Its just a matter of staying positive, not cloud my mind with lots of things, like mechanics and all the things I was worried about last year. Its just see the ball, hit the ball. Thats what Im going to try to accomplish this year.
What position Rios plays in the outfield is a mystery. He prefers center and right, but those spots might belong to Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo.
Well see what happens, Rios said.
Ventura said Saturday that players will have to be flexible.
Guys will just have to be open to moving around and do whats best for the team.
Right now the team is walking into camp with a peaceful, easy feeling. Last year they were All-In. This year, with a more surfer mentality settling in, maybe the new slogan should be this:
Its all good.