Sox Drawer: Dunn's DH dilemma

Sox Drawer: Dunn's DH dilemma
February 20, 2011, 12:29 am
Share This Post

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.