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White Sox can’t clean up Adam Dunn’s mess for him

Adam Dunn finds stroke good fortune with an opposite-field single third inning Tuesday. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Adam Dunn finds a stroke of good fortune with an opposite-field single in the third inning Tuesday. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:29AM

For a man so lost, Adam Dunn is actually very aware of his surroundings.

The White Sox’ lefty-hitting veteran knows what’s on the mind of an approaching reporter before a single question is asked. He knows what the hand on a shoulder from a teammate means before the word of advice is spoken. He knows how his home crowd is going to react to his name hours before the first strikeout.

Now, if he could just figure out how he got to this point.

Being 6-6 and 290-plus pounds never felt so small.

‘‘Dude, everyone can think they know what this is like, and things like that, but no one in this room knows what it’s like because no one has ever done this,’’ the struggling Dunn said Tuesday, looking around the Sox clubhouse at teammates going through their normal pre-game routines.

He was in a ‘‘dude’’ kind of mood.

‘‘I don’t know how to tell you, dude, it’s one of those things,’’ he said. ‘‘When [other players and coaches] say, ‘I know what you been through,’ yeah, well, I know you have, for a month or two months, I get it. Everyone has done that, slumped for a week, a month, even two, but nobody has done it four months, however many months we’ve been playing. No one.’’

Dunn is on track for one of the worst seasons by a major-leaguer, something unmatched in the rest of the American League right now. So while teammates do what teammates do by trying to pick Dunn up, it’s appreciated, but it’s an exercise in futility.

Everyone has an answer but him

‘‘I mean, this game humbles you every day,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘Whether you’re going good, going bad, you can go out for two weeks and feel as good as you’ve ever felt for two weeks, and then all of a sudden you come out and feel like you never hit before. . . . When this is done, I’ll sit back, hopefully be able to forget it, but I can’t put my finger on what’s going on.’’

That’s become everyone else’s job.

First it was an appendectomy at the start of the year that put Dunn in a hole. Then there’s the idea of Dunn seeing AL pitching for the first time in his career.

There’s becoming a DH, not enough video study, too much partying on the road, not enough passion, not enough swings in the offseason, family health issues, playing under high expectations for the first time . . . the list goes on.

Pick one or all of the above.

To Dunn’s credit, he offers no excuse at all and still can be found in front of his locker every day. However, there’s no question he’s no longer the same fun-loving, laid-back Texas boy he was during spring training or even last month.

No dragging teammates down

‘‘He shouldn’t be,’’ manager Ozzie Guillen said. ‘‘After the game, before the game, you can tell it’s wearing on him, but during the game? No. After the game, at his house — and it should. He’s a human being. During the game, he knows he’s not playing good, but he isn’t letting anyone feel bad for him. He’s just taking his stuff, staying in his routine.

‘‘It’s not easy to go through what he’s gone through. It takes a real man to face it. He’s not bringing anybody down with him, he’s staying optimistic, trying to be there for his teammates, but unfortunately things aren’t going his way.’’

So where does Dunn go from here? His hope is up. An opposite-field single Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians — on a 1-for-4 night — was as good a place to start as any.

That’s all well and good, but no one is here to feel sorry for a guy who is making $56 million over the next four years and has been terrible at his job.

We’ve all spent the last four-plus months trying to explain it, validate it, bring reason to it. We’ve all tried to be experts on all things Adam Dunn.

This falls solely on him. It’s his mess to figure out and clean up.

Sometimes when you’re lost, you just have to find your own way home.

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