Mark Buehrle, A.J. Pierzynski, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios. The names that have departed the White Sox recently signaled the current youth movement underway on the South Side. And after this season, Paul Konerko might get added to that list.
But there's one name, one veteran presence who could still be around when the Sox convene for spring training in February of 2014: Adam Dunn.
Dunn's contributions to this increasingly young Sox team are apparent in the final week of the 2013 season. The veteran slugger has sat out three straight games in the name of getting a look at the players who will make up the bulk of the team's future.
Robin Ventura has kept Dunn out of the lineup with the intention of seeing other, younger players. He did it in the final two games of the Sox series in Detroit, and he did it again in Monday's tilt with the Blue Jays. It's just part of the situation the team is in: cruising for a top-three draft pick while teams around them compete into October.
"Last couple days in Detroit, I think he's giving some guys some really good looks against some really good teams," Dunn said. "That's the good part about (the White Sox situation) — if there is a good part — is kind of evaluating what you have against good competition. That's also the bad part is that some people have got to sit and watch. But I understand, and it's good to kind of help evaluate the kids, too."
"That's where we're at, and they know we're going to have some other guys play, mix them in there," Ventura said. "He'll be in there tomorrow.
"Nobody's happy to sit, but in the end we're going to play who we need to play and they understand that."
Dunn has been an ultimate team player all season, always believing the Sox had the talent to turn things around and be a competitive team. And even as his veteran teammates have departed around him, he's still keeping the same opinion. When asked if the White Sox could do what the Red Sox did from last season to this season — go from worst to first — Dunn said it was a definite possibility.
"I think we can get to that level," he said. "Obviously everything starts with pitching. Boston had the pitching, and those guys have pretty much the same pitching staff they had last year, pretty much the same team other than a couple of small pieces. Everything starts with pitching. I think that's what we have, we have a lot of good, young arms that got a lot of experience this year."
And Dunn's been equally impressed with the young guys who have come up and forced him to the bench in the season's waning days.
"You have to be very impressed," he said. "It seems like everybody that's come up has not really missed a beat from what they were doing. Most of them if not all of them look like they belong. They don't feel out of place."
According to Ventura, the looks at these young guys are quite valuable. It remains to be determined whether Marcus Semien can be an everyday infielder or if Avisail Garcia will be a center fielder or a right fielder. That's where these late-September games can help.
"You'll have somewhat of a feel (for Semien)," Ventura said. "And you're going to have a month of spring training to see that again and see how he progresses, as well as in the (Arizona) Fall League. ... We'll see how he plays there. Sometimes you have the excitement of being up here a couple weeks. That isn't always a direct correlation into if you've made it or you haven't. But that's the only thing that we have to go by. You just watch him play, and you hope that he'll do well."
And Dunn is a big fan of Garcia, the Sox biggest name when it comes to this youth movement.
"I said that the first week he was here and he struck out every at-bat that everybody was trying to judge him and I'm not going to judge him," Dunn said. "Everybody knows that he's a five-tool freak of nature. He's a stud. What he's been doing, it's impressive. But if he gets settled in and gets comfortable with the team and has a few months under his belt, spring training, then I think you'll see the real him. He's pretty good."
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But then there's Dunn himself. His season will end with a rough set of numbers, including a final month that has seen him post a .130/.217/.241 slash line and hit just two homers in 17 games, only 15 of which he has started.
He continues to insist he's felt good at the plate for the majority of this season and that he hasn't seen much difference between hot stretches and cold stretches, aside from the results of course.
"There was a few little things that's different from when I was swinging the bat good to when I wasn't," Dunn said. "But for the most part, I've felt pretty good, really the entire year. I'll continue to work on that in the offseason, coming into spring and hoping that everything will be there and have a really good year."
So as the Sox most dreadful season in recent memory comes to a close, everyone's looking toward next year. That includes Dunn, who could wind up the veteran leader of a team of young players. It's a vastly different scenario than when he signed with the Sox, but it's one he'll be looking forward to nonetheless.