Commentary

Adam Dunn hopes to stave off boredom

White Sox slugger will be mostly a full-time DH for first time in his career in 2011

Originally Published: March 24, 2011
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Top 10 Activities Adam Dunn Can Conduct To Pass Time Between At-Bats As The White Sox DH:

10. Try to decipher the meaning of manager Ozzie Guillen's tweets.

9. Open a concession stand at Comiskey called Big Donkey Sausages.

[+] EnlargeAdam Dunn
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireBy joining the White Sox, Adam Dunn will play in the American League for the first time in his 11-year career.

8. Remake "Eight Men Out" with an alternate ending in which the Happy Felsch character convinces the rest of the Black Sox NOT to throw the 1919 World Series by inspiring them with a speech about winning radically.

7. Wash the team laundry with extra bleach so the White Sox actually wear white socks.

6. Give President Obama tips on his mechanics for the next time he throws out the first pitch at a White Sox game.

5. Appear in a reality show for Oprah's new network: "DHing with the Stars," along with such celebrities as Rod Blagojevich, Steve Perry, Rex Grossman, James Belushi and Joan Cusack.

4. Study film of pitchers and obscure foreign movies with Roger Ebert.

3. Three words: More sunflower seeds.

2. Spend it like everyone else does in Chicago -- stuck in traffic on the Dan Ryan Expressway.

And the No. 1 Activity Adam Dunn Can Conduct To Pass Time Between At-Bats As The White Sox DH:

1. Polish the 2005 world championship trophy to such a shine that all those wine-sipping yuppie Cubs fans can see it from Wrigleyville.

Or maybe none of the above.

"I have no idea," Dunn said when asked what he would do between at-bats. "I can't sit in the clubhouse like some people do. I want to feel like I'm still in the game. I imagine I'll be on the bench a lot. …

"It's going to be a challenge that I hope to adjust to rather quickly. The part I'm going to have to get over is that I'll be able to impact the game only offensively. If you have a couple of bad at-bats you have to wait a little bit to make up for it. Everyone I talked to said the same thing -- they all said [they do] something different, but they all had a routine that they were steady in doing between every at-bat."

Until signing a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox during the winter, Dunn had spent his entire career in the National League and DH'd only during some interleague games (77 plate appearances). Of course, fielding has never been Dunn's strength anyway (though he was decent at first base when he moved there last season while playing for the Nationals). Whether blasting home runs toward the Ohio River in Cincinnati, the swimming pool in Arizona or the Metro stop in D.C., the Bunyan-esque Dunn has been one of the game's great sluggers ever since he reached the majors in 2001. He has averaged 40 home runs, 101 RBIs and 100 walks the past seven seasons, never hitting fewer than 38 home runs.

"Are you kidding me? That's impressive," veteran White Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. "And he's done it in lineups that weren't as good as ours is. What are you going to do, walk him to pitch to Alex Rios? I don't think so.

"He's just like Jim Thome was. He's going to strike out 100 times. He's going to walk more than 100 times. He's going to hit 35-plus home runs. He's going to drive in 95-plus runs and he's going to be a presence in the lineup. There are no breaks now."

"He adds presence. He's just a veteran power hitter who works the count," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "And he's left-handed, which helps us. He just adds that veteran presence and stabilizes us by giving us a little more balance. And the power is obvious. He's one piece of the puzzle. That's what we're trying to do. Solve the puzzle."

Dunn has frequently batted third this spring, but Guillen said he isn't sure where he'll bat him during the season and joked that if he keeps hitting the way he has (.224 with one home run and three RBIs through Monday), "We may bat him ninth." While the bulk of his time will be at DH, Dunn likely will play some first base as well when Paul Konerko doesn't.

Despite Dunn's production, he's made the All-Star team only once, back in 2002. Former Cincinnati teammate Ken Griffey Jr. says Dunn is underrated and that people focus too much on what he doesn't do well -- strikes out a lot, not a good defender -- and not enough on what he does: slam baseballs toward the horizon. "How many teams could use 35 home runs in their lineup?" Griffey asked.

A.J. Pierzynski He's just a veteran power hitter who works the count. And he's left-handed, which helps us.

-- White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski
on new teammate Adam Dunn

The answer to that question is basically every team. The White Sox did hit 177 home runs last season, including 111 at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field, where oddly, Dunn has never played. With Konerko, Rios and Carlos Quentin, Dunn isn't exactly joining the Mariners' lineup.

"My main thing is you're not guaranteed anything after this contract so if this was going to be my last contract my ultimate goal was to get on a team with the best chance of winning," Dunn said, adding it was Chicago's pitching that made the difference in his decision to sign with the White Sox. "That's the name of the game and we're fortunate to have five, six, seven legitimate major league starters and some teams are lucky if they have two or three. We've got a great bullpen and the offense has everything you want -- guys who can hit for average and power."

Among active players, only Randy Winn has played more games without reaching the postseason than Dunn (1,448). Worse, his teams have finished above .500 only once (the Diamondbacks ended the year 82-80 after Dunn was traded to Arizona during the 2008 season). If Jake Peavy is healthy much of the year (he likely will open the season on the disabled list due to shoulder tendinitis), the White Sox should have one of the top rotations in the American League led by Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Edwin Jackson. That, plus adding Dunn to a powerful lineup, should make Chicago the favorite in the AL Central.

"I know I'm capable of a lot more," Dunn said. "That's the frustrating part. I know I'm capable of more than what I've done. Hopefully I can make this DH [thing] work and it won't get me as tired in August and September and the numbers will be better."

The goal is to have even better numbers in October, particularly late October, when most players are passing their time on the golf course.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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Senior Writer, ESPN.com