Thome confident Dunn will rebound

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Thome confident Dunn will rebound

For the last nine months, Adam Dunns name has been surrounded by a black cloud of smoke, a player whose stellar 11-year baseball career suddenly crashed to bits in 2011 following one of the worst hitting seasons in baseball history.

And now with spring training a little over a month away, the question being asked is, Can Dunn turn it around and have a comeback year in 2012? A successful White Sox season likely hinges on it.

However, after Dunn hit .159 with 177 strikeouts in his first full go-around in the American League, youll be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to jump on the Dunn bandwagon believing that a major revival could be ahead for the Sox dubious designated hitter. Some might be inclined to dip their toes in the water with a half-hearted endorsement, but to go waist-deep in the lagoon, see through the mud and muck that has plastered itself around his image, and predict a possible monster season for the lefty slugger?

That, I had not heard until Saturday night.

And leave it to another bulky left-hander, the last man to hold Dunns job on a regular basis: Jim Thome.

Im a very similar player as him. If you look at the way both of our styles are, we are very similar, Thome said of Dunn in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. And I will say this, the guy might come out this year and hit 60 home runs. Hes got that potential. And one thing I would think, because hes very driven, whenever you challenge an athlete, the good ones rise, and hes very good, so well see.

When it comes to being a designated hitter, Thome is the current expert among active players, having logged 781 games at that position throughout his career. His first season with the White Sox in 2006 was also his first as a full-time DH, something Dunn had to adapt to in 2011.

How big of an adjustment is it?

Its huge, Thome said. I think the one thing you have to have in your mindset is that this is what I want to do. If theres any hesitation, if theres any doubt in your mind, Well, am I going to play in the field, am I not, am I full-time? And I think what helped me, and I credit Ozzie Guillen for doing this, he told me that I was going to be the DH, and thats what I prepared to do, and I tried to do it the best I could.

Thome quickly adapted to his new role, and batted .288 with 42 homers and 109 RBIs in 2006. Dunn never found a rhythm or comfort zone, and his season quickly slid into the abyss.

As a guy who swings and misses youre going to go through those down times, and I think getting into that routine is the most important thing for sure, Thome said.

After finishing his 21st season in Cleveland, ironically where it all began in 1991, Thome went home accepting the realization that he might have played his final game in a major league uniform.

How close was he to retirement?

Very, very, he said. Ill be honest, I got home and Andrea Jims wife and I talked about it, and I pretty much made my mind up that if I was out there in January, this time of year, unsigned that I would probably just go ahead and retire.

But just two hours after the free agency period began, Thomes agent received a phone call from the Phillies, who signed him to a 1-year, 1.25 million contract.

Theyve put themselves in a position to win a World Series, and lets face it, thats where Im at. I feel like for me, thats the unfinished thing in my career, and I wanted to give that at least another year and try to do that, said Thome, who will mainly be used as a late-inning pinch-hitter, but will also play some first base until Ryan Howard is recovered from his Achilles tendon injury. Easier said than done, but Thome is determined to be physically ready for the challenge.

When the All-in White Sox won only 79 games last season, no one was more surprised than Thome who, while playing in the AL Central with the Twins and Indians, had a front-row seat for many of their struggles.

Ill never forget it. We were in Minnesota, and we watched their Opening Day game. It was in Cleveland, and they scored like 15 or 18 runs.

(For the record it, was 15. The Sox won 15-10. Dunn hit a homer that ricocheted off a satellite.)

And I remember our guys saying, It looks like Chicago is going to be tough to handle. And then as baseball goes, you just never know. I think with their team last year, its hard to predict or say what went wrong. I think its just a part of baseball.

Saturday, Thome was back in his hometown of Peoria hosting the 17th annual Joyce Thome Benefit, in honor of his late mother. The evening raised over 270,000 for Childrens Hospital of Illinois. It was a record turnout, which this year celebrated Thomes 600th home run, which he belted out in Detroit back in August.

After hitting No. 500 with the White Sox in 2007, Jim and his father Chuck brought the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He plans on doing the same with No. 600 after the season, but this time hell bring along his wife and two kids.

It will be yet another chapter in Thomes memory bank of incredible moments. Like Saturday night.

How do you imagine starting out in the big leagues, growing up in Peoria, getting an opportunity to fulfill a dream, and then you get a call from a hospital back in 1994. And Ill never forget my mom said, The hospital called. Lets go visit the kids. And on that day, day one, it touched me.

In his three-plus seasons with the White Sox, Thome touched the lives of many White Sox fans, some of whom were in attendance at the Thome gala.

Jim foresees a possible renaissance for Dunn in 2012. How about the entire White Sox team?

I do. I think Robin is a great man. I think hes going to do great things. Hes a great baseball guy. I think a guy like Gordon Beckham is going to have a great year.

Then Thome paused and smiled.

And then, who knows, maybe well see you in Chicago in the World Series. That would be fun.

Or unlikely, depending on your point-of-view.

But like Thome said, with baseball, you just never know.

Anyone who says they do know doesnt. Ask the St. Louis Cardinals.

Or ask the heavens. Somewhere theres a ball that Dunn hit there once upon a time. Itll eventually come back.

What happens if his swing does too?

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

David Robertson, Nate Jones return to White Sox after WBC victory

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Having experienced a playoff-like atmosphere at the World Baseball Classic, David Robertson and Nate Jones already feel prepared for the regular season. 

The two relievers returned to White Sox camp on Friday morning bearing gold medals from a Team USA WBC title run that concluded on Wednesday night with an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Robertson, who recorded the final three outs of the clinching victory, said he's glad to be back and won't need much of a tune-up to be ready for the April 3 season opener.

"Back up to speed?" Robertson said. "More like slow down and get ready for the season. I'll probably play catch (Friday). I didn't throw (Thursday), I spent the day traveling. Probably play catch today, and be ready to throw (Saturday). If I needed to throw today, I could. I feel like I'm season ready right now."

"It feels good to be back. It's been a long trip doing this WBC, so it's good to be back and relax a little bit. Have a couple days before we start the season."

Both Jones and Robertson appeared four times each for Team USA with similar results. Each allowed a solo home run but nothing else. Jones said he brought his gold medal back to camp because he isn't yet ready to put it in his safety deposit box. His favorite moments of the tournament were brought on by raucous crowds.

"Once you get a crowd chanting USA that was a pretty cool moment," Jones said. "You're proud of representing your country, and once they did that, it all kind of set in, like, ‘Wow, this is happening.'

"It's just pure excitement, everybody going crazy."

Jones and Robertson said they're pleased to have returned to the relative tranquility of White Sox camp after they lived out of a suitcase for the previous 18 days. Both were set to meet with pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Rick Renteria to discuss their upcoming schedule. Jones said he expected to throw a side session on Friday in front of Cooper to have his mechanics reviewed. Robertson last pitched on Wednesday and didn't know when he'd throw again.

"They've been busy, obviously, with Robbie finishing up the last game," Renteria said. "We'll see how the schedule lines up in terms of their usage for the remaining 9-10 days."

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Robertson is pretty sure he won't need much work. Whereas the team's closer normally waits until the first week of March to appear in a game, Robertson has pitched in plenty this spring. Each of the last four has had a ton more intensity than any normal Cactus League work.

"It felt like playoff baseball really early in the year," Robertson said. "Just coming from Miami, trying to win a couple days in there was really hard. Fans were really loud. That place was a very intense environment, and it didn't feel like you were the home team at all.

"It felt like (a home game) when we were in San Diego We were the home team there, and when we got to L.A., same thing. Although, I will say that when we were playing the Japanese, it erupted a couple times when they had some big moments in their game. It was just a lot of fun to play in this whole event. It was definitely more than I expected."

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

Jose Quintana gets the Opening Day start for White Sox

 

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana has been named the Opening Day starter — for the White Sox.

While many are surprised he still hasn't been traded, few should be shocked by the news manager Rick Renteria delivered on Friday, when he announced Quintana would pitch the April 3 opener.

With Chris Sale gone to Boston, Quintana, a first-time All-Star in 2016, has been the odds-on favorite to take over as the team's ace. The only question seemed to be whether or not he'd still be in a White Sox uniform when the season began. But the club made it clear Friday that Quintana is their guy and he'll face the Detroit Tigers in the first game of 2017. The only one who seemed a little taken aback about the news is Quintana.

"I was surprised," Quintana said. "I knew I may get the ball for that day, but they didn't say nothing, so you didn't know. I just kept going and doing my workouts and all my stuff. I'm really, really happy with this opportunity. It's huge for me. I can't wait for that day to come.

"I'm excited to have this opportunity. It's a huge honor for me to have the ball for Opening Day the first time in my life. And I think it's a once-in-a-life opportunity."

Asked about the announcement earlier in the week, Renteria said he needed more time. Many speculated that it meant the White Sox were continuing to listen to offers for Quintana, who has drawn constant interest since the team began its rebuild in December.

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Quintana, who went 13-12 with a 3.20 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 208 innings last season, has looked fantastic all spring. Pitching in front of more than a dozen scouts on Thursday, Quintana made his first Cactus League appearance in a month and allowed two hits over seven scoreless innings. The left-hander also put on a brilliant performance for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic on March 10 as he retired the first 17 Team USA hitters he faced before allowing a hit.

"He's very happy about it," Renteria said. "He has obviously earned it.

"I don't know if he was surprised as much as he was elated and proud to be given the opportunity to be the Opening Day starter. It's a privilege."

Quintana's resume of consistency made him a clear-cut choice for the nod. He heads into 2017 having pitched at least 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. In that span, he's produced a 3.32 ERA and 18.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. That figure represents the seventh-highest WAR total among all big league pitchers in that span.

Even though he's viewed as the staff ace, Quintana — who potentially has four years and $36.85 million left on his current contract — said he was surprised by the news because the club hadn't yet informed him of the honor.

"It means a lot for me, especially after last year when you make the All-Star team and this year the opportunity to play in the WBC and now you have the opportunity to pitch on Opening Day," Quintana said. "That's a lot of things happening for me now and I'm happy. And really blessed. You just try to do all my things every time.

"Maybe they don't know what it means for me, but it's a big thing."