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White Sox’ Adam Dunn needs a dude awakening

Sox slugger Adam Dunn who struck out three times Saturday is hitting only .178. He has struck out 75 times

Sox slugger Adam Dunn, who struck out three times Saturday, is hitting only .178. He has struck out 75 times to lead the American League. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

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Updated: September 24, 2011 12:21AM

Adam Dunn knows what he is, and two months of atrocious hitting can’t change that.

‘‘Once you get that confidence back and know you’re a bad dude . . . well, it’s weird how it works, but it works,’’ he said.

He knows he’s a bad dude.

“I am,’’ he said. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. That’s something that you fight. As soon as doubt starts creeping into your head, you’re done. That’s something that’s happened during this [slump]. You’ve got to sit back and think, ‘You’ve got plenty of time to get yourself out of this.’ ’’

So the bad dude keeps trudging to the plate for the White Sox, waiting for something good to happen, knowing it will, but impatient for it to hurry up already. He heard lots of boos after each of his three strikeouts Saturday night at the Cell.

He can handle a slump. A slump is a dry spell. This is a desert. He’s batting .178. It’s a ridiculous number for early June. It’s a number that shouldn’t be attached to someone of his abilities, but it is. It’s as if he’s having an out-of-body experience, and he’s watching himself in a car crash, over and over again.

“It’s like, OK, what’s going on here?’’ he said. “Why am I doing this? Why can’t I hit this? Then I stop myself: No, that [pitcher] is more scared of you than you are of him, that’s for sure.’’

That’s the confidence that helped him hit at least 38 home runs each of the previous seven seasons. It helped him knock in 100 runs or more six of the seven previous seasons.

In 52 games this season, he has five homers, 23 RBI and an American League-leading 75 strikeouts. It’s not much of a return for the $12 million the Sox are paying him for 2011.

When he goes home after a
game, the only numbers he tries to dwell on are one wife and two
young sons.

‘‘That’s one thing I learned: I’m not going to punish my family for what I’m doing on the baseball field,’’ he said. “This is a job. That’s a fight you have to fight. It’s hard. This is what we do. When we’re not doing it the way we’re capable of doing it, it’s hard to leave it in the clubhouse.

“But my kids don’t deserve that. They care that I’m home to play with them. They don’t care how I did in the game.’’

Tough to watch and explain

He knows his wife hurts for him. He can see it in her face when he walks through the door. He understands what she’s going through.

“It’s hard for people to watch, you know?’’ he said. “I get phone calls every day. I’m getting phone calls from people I haven’t heard from in years. It’s hard to watch, but even harder than that is being in the batter’s box doing it. The good thing is that we’ve got four months left.

“It’s nice to know people care, but it’s not like I’m on suicide watch.’’

There are better ways to get out of a slump than facing Detroit’s Justin Verlander. But a slump has no sympathy.

It doesn’t care that he’s in a new league. It doesn’t care that he has never been a designated hitter. It took pleasure in his appendectomy earlier in the season.

If you’re looking for explanations for his awful start, all of those are possibilities. But none explains .178.

So he’s left to explain it. Over and over again. You almost feel bad asking him about it.

“It’s my fault,’’ he said before the Sox’ 4-2 loss. “If I hadn’t put myself in this situation, I wouldn’t have to talk about it every day.’’

If this were his first or second year in the big leagues, he might be a basket case right now.

“I’ve never been through something quite like this,’’ said Dunn, who played first base for Paul Konerko (sore wrist). “But it definitely helps to know that you’re able to come out of it. I’ve never been through something like this for this extended amount of time. It just means that when I do come out of it, there’s going to be a lot of damage.’’

A little relief

The Sox have rebounded after a horrendous start, and that has taken some of the weight off of Dunn’s shoulders.

He’s not the reason the Sox are winning, but at least he doesn’t have to feel like he’s the reason for an endless string of losing.

He needs to start hitting.

He knows it.

Everybody knows it.

In the meantime, he refuses to mope.

“I’ve learned to really bottle that up inside,’’ he said. “I don’t want to show it. I don’t want to show I’m getting frustrated. What’s that helping? Pouting doesn’t help anything.’’

You wish him luck. What else can you do?

“I’ll be all right,’’ the bad dude said.

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