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Adam Dunn reaping benefits of practice

RobVentursaid Adam Dunn has “had really good at-bats even walks” this spring. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Robin Ventura said Adam Dunn has “had really good at-bats, even in the walks” this spring. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 10, 2012 11:49AM

SURPRISE, Ariz. — The intensity level of work with new hitting coach Jeff Manto and a fresh start in a new year are producing good results for Adam Dunn.

Dunn launched a deep three-run homer to right field against Neftali Feliz in his first at-bat Thursday. He lined a double to the wall in right-center to score the Sox’ fourth run in their 6-3 victory over the Texas Rangers.

“It tells me this cage work we’re doing is paying off so far,’’ Dunn said. “The things we’re actually working on in the cage as of now, it’s helping. I’m staying back, I’m not cutting off my swing. Right now I got good length. I can give you all kinds of technical terms, but it doesn’t really mean a lot.’’

Dunn didn’t care that the ball cleared the wall. He liked the direction it went. In his horrible 2011 season, he said he might have hooked those pitches down the right-field line, perhaps foul.

In his first two games, Dunn wanted to see a lot of pitches and drew three walks.

“Today I wanted to come in and see where the swing was,’’ he said. “Tomorrow might be back to, ‘let’s work the count a bit’.’’

On other teams, Dunn, who has 365 career homers, has had hitting coaches who didn’t click with him. Manto has lauded “the look in Dunn’s eye” since Day 1
and is predicting a bounce-back year for the Sox’ $56 million designated hitter.

“I think me and him are on the same page on a lot of things,’’ Dunn said. “You should always have that in a hitting coach and I think he realizes I do have a plan, whether people believe that or not. I have a plan each and every time I’m up there.’’

The normally fun-loving Dunn watched the fun disappear from his job last season when he batted .159 with 11 homers and 42 RBI in his first Sox season. He hit a little more than usual during the offseason and came to SoxFest in January with a serious demeanor. This spring, he is back to his normal, carefree self. But he’s taking his work seriously.

“The way he’s talking, the way he looks, the way he’s carrying himself, it’s just a hunger,’’ Manto said during the first week of camp.

On Thursday, it was clear from the get-go that Dunn was getting good looks at Feliz. He fouled a two-strike slider straight back before launching the homer. Seeing is believing.

“I am seeing the ball good. And that’s over half the battle for me, seeing it,’’ he said. “I can tell by taking pitches, I’m seeing them good. Right now, it’s good.”

If there ever was a game a team wanted to win in spring training, this was it. Manager Robin Ventura didn’t want to fall to 0-4, and Dunn’s four RBI gave the Sox a 4-1 lead.

Ventura, a good hitter in his playing days, saw it the same way as Dunn.

“The at-bats are more important for me,’’ Ventura said. “I see his approach. Out here it can be deceiving with the wind-blown [home runs, extra-base hits]. Those weren’t wind-blown. Those were right on the barrel. He’s had that so far. He’s had really good at-bats, even in the walks.

“You can tell he’s seeing it and confident at the plate. That’s all I’m really looking for right now, him having quality at-bats up there. He’s in a great spot.’’

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