Chicago White Sox

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.

Lucas Giolito puts together another strong outing in White Sox loss to Astros

Lucas Giolito puts together another strong outing in White Sox loss to Astros

HOUSTON — He didn’t have his best stuff against baseball’s top offense on Tuesday night, but Lucas Giolito had his changeup.

The young White Sox pitcher showed once again that when he has confidence in an offspeed pitch he’s able to overcome situations where his fastball might not be as good as he’d prefer. Trust in the changeup and a good command of the fastball were more than enough to put together another strong performance.

While Giolito took the decision in a 3-1 White Sox loss to the Houston Astros, he once again earned plaudits for his pitching.

“He was really good,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “His changeup's very good. He obviously can spin a couple different breaking balls. It looks like a heavy fastball. So, a really impressive young starter to be able to navigate the lineup in different ways and get guys out in different ways and really compete.”

Perhaps no one hitter better demonstrated Giolito’s ability to compete than his sixth-inning showdown with Astros No. 5 hitter Marwin Gonzalez. Having just issued his first walk down 2-1 with two outs and a man on second, Giolito threw both his two- and four-seam fastball, changeup and curveball during a lengthy at-bat. With the count full, Gonzalez fouled off six consecutive fastballs before Giolito threw a changeup in the dirt for the whiff on the 12th pitch of the at-bat.

It was one of 18 changeups Giolito threw, with 11 going for strikes.

“The changeup was a good pitch for me aside from a few I left up in the zone,” Giolito said. “I had a lot of confidence in it and that was probably the offspeed pitch I was most comfortable going to in situations.”

Given his fastball velo was an average of 92.2 mph, confidence and comfort were critical. Houston entered the game with a team slash line of .282/.345/.479 and averaging 5.47 runs per contest. The American League West champions offer few easy outs and were clearly the sternest test to date for Giolito, who has never pitched more innings in a season than his current 167 between Triple-A Charlotte and the majors.

Even though the velo isn’t where he’s wanted it in the past two outings, Giolito has pitched well enough. Giolito produced his fourth quality start in six outings in the big leagues as he limited the Astros to two earned runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.

“Felt pretty good about it,” Giolito said. “It was one of those days where I didn’t have my best stuff working. Had a lot of trouble getting the ball to the extension side. That’s something to work on this week going into the next start. But I felt good about how I pitched tonight for sure.”

The White Sox feel pretty good about the production they’ve received from Giolito, who struggled with consistency earlier this season at Triple-A and dropped down in the prospect rankings as a result. The right-hander said he’s pleased with how he’s learned to be more composed on the mound this season. He’s also clearly gained confidence and trust in his stuff.

“Based on everything we saw, the skill set that he would be able to manage his ability on the mound to attack the strike zone,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s throwing his breaking ball more effectively now, the changeup as well.”

“All in all he’s doing what he needs to do. He’s kept hitters off balance. His ball has some life. He has angle. We’re happy with how he’s continued to develop.”

Giolito’s offense didn’t do what it needed to earn him a victory despite another big night from Yoan Moncada. Moncada went 3-for-4 with three singles and shortstop Tim Anderson extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a ninth-inning single.

White Sox draft guru Nick Hostetler willing to sacrifice position for player development

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White Sox draft guru Nick Hostetler willing to sacrifice position for player development

HOUSTON — As much as he longs to pick first next June, Nick Hostetler has learned to cope in the name of player development.

The White Sox amateur scouting director sees a deep draft class full of high school and college players awaiting. He’d love if the White Sox didn’t have to sweat out other teams’ decisions in what will be another critical moment in the team’s accumulation process.

But Hostetler said Tuesday he’s learned not to let his own feelings get in the way of what’s best for the franchise. Even if the White Sox end up picking third or fourth next June, Hostetler appreciates that the worse draft position is the result of a hot streak by any number of young players.

“It’s really exciting to see some of these young kids have success,” Hostetler said. “I really do like seeing Tim Anderson hit .400 and Lucas Giolito doing what he’s doing. All of these things are so great for the ultimate plan, which is us winning at the big-league level. I don’t ever want to get so selfish where I’m worrying about one pick or whether we’re three or whether we’re four or whatever it is and to use that than to take away from the greater good.”

There’s no question one pick can make all the difference. Colorado has received good production out of the third overall selection of the 2013 draft, Jon Gray, who has thus far given them 7.1 f-Wins Above Replacement in his brief career. But that pales in comparison to the 21.0 WAR produced by second pick Kris Bryant.

Entering Tuesday, the White Sox boasted the third-worst record in the majors. But their lead over the flailing Detroit Tigers, who are fourth, has slipped down to 1 1/2 games.

While a 100-loss season still appears to be in play for the White Sox, it seems far-fetched they would catch Philadelphia or San Francisco to finish with a top-two selection next June.

No matter where the White Sox pick, Hostetler is excited about the prospects of the class, which has a nice blend of hitters and pitchers from high school and college. Hostetler said earlier this month it’s the best class he can remember since 2010.

Still, Hostetler jokes that he’s conflicted when it comes to September scoreboard watching.

“It’s hard not to sit there and look but I’ve done a really good job,” Hostetler said with a laugh. “I’m proud of myself for this. I’ve kind of removed myself from this point. I root for our guys to succeed and to win, but at the same time knowing ultimately come June and three or four years after we’ll really know if picking third or fourth actually mattered.”