Plenty was made about Adam Dunn's transition from playing the field to DH'ing in 2011, in which he hit just 11 home runs after hitting 38 or more in his seven previous seasons. Paul Konerko is going through a similar transition, albeit less pronounced, as he's on pace to play about 72 games at first base this year.
Konerko hasn't played fewer than 100 games in the field over a full season since 1999. Entering Monday's game -- in which he'll play first base -- Konerko is hitting .224/.280/.340 with four home runs.
He's not blaming increased time at DH, though, for his muted production so far since he knew the transition was coming during spring training.
"If you would have picked me up from 10 years ago or eight years ago dropped me into this year, it would be really kind of weird," Konerko said. "But I knew it was kind of a gradual thing last year, and into this year I knew I was going to DH more. No worries there, I just try to make sure I’m sharp."
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Frank Thomas saw his production fall the first year he slid into a DH role, although his drop off was from elite to merely above average. Still, the transition to doing nothing but hitting wasn't easy for him.
"You’ve got to find a way to get your mind off hitting 24-7," Thomas told CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien in 2011. "You’ve got to find a way to keep yourself in the game like you’re actually playing like a first baseman."
Konerko isn't a full-time DH, and said he's worked to keep his fielding skills sharp for when he is put back at first base, like on Monday. When he does play DH for a few days in a row, though, he said he has the hang of the routine and that it's not affecting what he does at the plate.
While Konerko hasn't homered since April 28, hasn't had an extra base hit since May 4 and has seen his OPS dip to .620 entering Monday, he feels like he's swung the bat better over the last few games. He went 3-5 on Saturday in Anaheim but went 0-4 on Sunday, although he said the results don't tell the whole story.
"In this game, close and the results are kind of two different things," Konerko explained. "There have been lot of moments that you’re close and it feels like you got it, but sometimes that has to line up with somebody not catching a ball, the wind not knocking down a ball -- those little moments where that can kind of turn it for you. That hasn’t happened.
"But I also know that if you want to be good in this league, you go up there for 10 at-bats (and) you have to be good in eight of them where you’re dialed in and you’re in control of what you got going on -- that’s to probably hit four balls sharply and to get about three balls of that to be hits. You have to be dialed in and I’m just trying to work to that consistency where you’re in control of what you’re doing every time up there.
"The last few days I have been," the Sox captain continued. "I’ve had a lot of normal games lately that I can have in the middle of a hot streak that turned out to be a 1-for-4 or 1-for-3 or 0-for-4 and it’s like ‘Hey, that’s as good as I could do it.’ It’s just been surrounded by a lot of bad ones. I’ve been there before. And I’ve been worse than I am now, I can tell you that."