Sox Drawer: Dunn's DH dilemma

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Sox Drawer: Dunn's DH dilemma

Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011
Posted 6:30 p.m. Updated 6:56 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Being a designated hitter seems like the easiest job in sports.

Swing the bat. Sit down. Swing the bat. Sit down. Innings one through nine. April through October. How tough can it be?

Ask Adam Dunn.

The Sox 56 million dollar slugger is a 6-foot-6 beast of a man who destroys baseballs for a living. But get his thoughts on how he'll adjust to his new role as full-time DH, and the 285-pounder shrinks to about half the size.

I have no idea, Dunn said on Saturday, speaking frankly in front of his locker, his first day of spring training. Thats going to be something thats going to be my biggest challenge to find out how to keep myself warm and in the game and not be in the field.

In 10 major league seasons (all in the National League), Dunn has played over 1,000 games in the outfield, 336 at first base, but only 18 as designated hitter during interleague play.

It will definitely be an adjustment. Ive talked with some people who have done it. Well figure it out some way, if I have to put a bike in the dugout I will. I dont know what else people do.

Dunn has already spoken with longtime Cleveland Indians DH Travis Hafner for advice, not to mention White Sox legend Frank Thomas, who logged 1,310 games as a designated hitter during his 19-year career.

"I told him the key is to just stay mentally in touch with the entire game. That's it," Thomas said.

I guess easier said than done. Or Dunn.

Saturday, Dunn put on his White Sox practice uniform for the first time and headed out to the batting cage.

First swing of the year! he shouted.

By year, Dunn was clearly referring to the 2011 season. I mean, he does pick up a bat during the off-season, doesn't he?

Lets see, Dunn replied when asked after his hitting session. He paused a moment for dramatic affect before delivering the surprise of the day with a smile:

I dont.

Seriously?

Ive tried it both ways, Dunn explained. Ive tried hitting around Thanksgiving. I just feel like it works better for me, because Im going to get in bad habits hitting by myself so its good to come a few days early and lube it up. You got 40 days down here, usually it takes a hitter about two weeks.

When I asked Ozzie Guillen about Dunns off-season regiment, the White Sox manager nodded his head in agreement.

I like when the players do that. They dont do that much in the off-season and they come to spring training ready to work. I think thats the way I did it. I think its easier because you have a month and a half to get ready and sometimes you overdo stuff," said Guillen, who plans for Dunn to play some first base, but mainly DH.

Sharing a clubhouse with names like Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, and Alex Rios, the burly 285-pounder feels like he belted a home run back in December when he signed with the White Sox. He says this is already the best team hes ever played on, even before theyve played a game.

Definitely, Dunn said. No disrespect to the teams Ive been on, but this is a complete team. These guys have proven they were a great team before I got here. Hopefully I can put them over the edge.

Clean-up hitters are known to gain a ton of attention, especially when your body is twice the size of the average human being. So when the season begins, and he digs in at home plate, Dunn knows hell be the target of a red-hot spotlight, one that can burn a mans cornea.

But not his.

I dont avoid (the pressure). I embrace it. I have extremely high expectations for myself. If people dont have high expectations for me, then Im not doing something right. I embrace the pressure, I embrace the role. Im definitely going to put a lot of pressure on myself.

Swinging the bat? That's the easy part.

What to do while not swinging? He's trying to figure that out.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Starting to blossom: White Sox prospect Dane Dunning flourishes behind attacking style

Starting to blossom: White Sox prospect Dane Dunning flourishes behind attacking style

Dane Dunning has begun to cast aside the doubts of some observers who wondered when he was drafted last June if he’s a starting pitcher or a reliever.

The White Sox felt pretty certain Dunning -- the team’s No. 10 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com -- would start even though he pitched out of the bullpen more often in three seasons at the University of Florida. They were absolutely thrilled when they were able to include the Washington Nationals’ 2016 first-round draft pick along with pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez in the return for Adam Eaton.

Through four starts at Single-A Kannapolis, Dunning has only strengthened the club’s assertion with a scorching hot start that could likely soon lead to a promotion. After six more scoreless innings and seven strikeouts on Wednesday, Dunning is 2-0 with a 0.35 ERA.

“I talked to scouts who really think Giolito and Lopez are relievers and at the time of the trade thought ‘Don’t be surprised if Dunning is the best starting pitcher of those three guys in the long run,’” said MLB.com’s Jim Callis. “He’s got stuff. He’s not going to light up the gun like those guys can. But he’s got a fastball with life and he’s got three pitches. He’s legit. He very well could go from being the third guy in the trade for Eaton to the best guy.”

The only thing that has slowed down Dunning this month is the weather. Originally scheduled to start Sunday, Dunning’s fourth turn was wiped out by rain for three consecutive days. The layoff could explain Dunning’s -- ahem -- rust on Wednesday morning when he threw only 58 of 88 pitches (66 percent) for strikes and limited Hagerstown to two hits and a walk while striking out seven.

All Dunning has done is fill up the strike zone this season. He has thrown strikes on 246 of 354 pitches (69.5 percent). Through 26 innings, Dunning has allowed two runs (one earned), 13 hits and two walks with 33 strikeouts.

“He really commands the fastball well to both sides,” Kannapolis catcher Seby Zavala said. “He doesn’t get behind too many hitters. He attacks with the fastball. And if you can locate that fastball, you’re going to do pretty well, especially at this level.”

Dunning is hopeful his attacking style would work at every level. As he noted, Hall of Fame hitters are successful only three out of 10 times.

“The odds are in my favor 70 percent of the time,” Dunning said. “I’m OK with those odds.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

“Big leaguers, they miss down the middle at times and they get away with it. They miss up at times and they get away with it. Baseball is a game of failure. A hitter’s going to fail seven out of 10 times. Once you realize those odds, you just pound strikes and if you’re able to locate it, that helps in your favor.”

Despite his approach, many observers weren’t sure if Dunning would start as a pro. A reliever his freshman season at Florida, Dunning made 14 starts in his second year before mostly pitching in relief as a junior. He had the burden of pitching in a Gators rotation that included fellow first-round pick A.J. Puk and second-rounder Logan Shore.

“If I went to really any other SEC school I would have been a Friday night starter,” Dunning said. “But on the other hand, it humbled me a bunch and I learned a lot by starting and going out of the ‘pen.”

Still, Dunning faced a bunch of interview questions during the draft process about whether he wanted to start or relieve. An American League scout who took in Dunning’s April 18 outing at Asheville doesn’t think Florida knew what it had in Dunning, who posted a 3.32 ERA and struck out 170 in 160 collegiate innings.

But amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said the White Sox suspected Dunning would start all along. Hostetler attended one of Dunning’s five starts in 2016 and liked the combination of the right-hander’s 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and his stuff. The White Sox nearly selected Dunning with the 26th pick in the draft but instead grabbed reliever Zack Burdi as they believed they might need a big arm out of the bullpen in the majors later that season. Washington took Dunning 29th overall.

“He showed three pitches, the ability to command all three pitches, physical build, strength,” Hostetler said. “And when he did start last year he showed the ability to go deeper into games. He maintained his stuff through it. And I felt with not only the physical size, but the stuff, that was going to translate and he was going to start.

“He’s pretty aggressive, he’s always been that way. He’s a pretty dialed in kid. He’s in the game, the whole game. There’s no distracting him. He kind of looks like what we expected him to be.”

Though he is more comfortable in the five-day routine for starters, Dunning jokes that he gets jealous of position players being on the field every day. Still, he doesn’t find the uncertainty that comes with relieving as appealing but appreciates the experience. Dunning knows that experience could supply him with a fallback plan. But if he’s given the choice, Dunning prefers to be a starting pitcher.

“I can get in more of a groove,” Dunning said. “Mainly, it’s just to help the team get wins and that’s my ultimate goal out there if I’m starting or coming out of the bullpen. If I’m starting, just put on a good performance for my team, get the game going. If I’m coming out of the ‘pen, it’s hold the lead and get my team W’s.”

CSN will televise eight Charlotte Knights games this summer

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Laura Wolff

CSN will televise eight Charlotte Knights games this summer

Good news, White Sox fans.

CSN is going to televise eight games this summer of the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate.

“The White Sox have sent us an outstanding roster of prospects this season,” said Charlotte Knights Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkowski. “We’re thrilled that CSN Chicago will be airing several of our games to showcase that talent while also giving viewers an extended look at BB&T Ballpark and the city of Charlotte.”

It's no secret by now that the White Sox have one of the best farm systems in baseball, much of where their talent plays for Charlotte.

The Knights feature an elite group of young stars such as Zack Burdi, Carson Fulmer, Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, and Reynaldo Lopez.

Below is the full TV list:

Wednesday, May 3 10:00 a.m. vs Norfolk (Orioles) LIVE
Thursday, May 4 6:00 p.m. vs Norfolk (Orioles) LIVE
Sunday, May 7 1:00 p.m. vs Gwinnett (Braves) SDD-7p on CSN
Saturday, May 27 6:00 p.m. vs Buffalo (Blue Jays) LIVE
Sunday, May 28 6:00 p.m. vs Buffalo (Blue Jays) SDD-7p on CSN
Thursday, June 15 6:00 p.m. vs Louisville (Reds) LIVE
Saturday, June 17 6:00 p.m. vs Indianapolis (Pirates) LIVE on CSN+HD
Sunday, June 18 1:00 p.m. vs Indianapolis (Pirates) SDD-7p on CSN

The announcers for the games are still to be determined.

[VIVID SEATS: Buy White Sox tickets right here]

Our CSN White Sox Insider Dan Hayes went on a minor league tour last week to check in with the team's farm system.

Check out the latest news from the White Sox minor league system:

White Sox prospect Zack Collins takes a major step toward making it as a big-league catcher

Fun and fluid: Drill sharpens White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada's defensive skills

White Sox prospect Carson Fulmer: 'Our time is coming soon'

White Sox think Michael Kopech's maturity will help him overcome early fastball command issues