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Adam Dunn having a blast in bounce-back season

Adam Dunn belts solo home run fourth inning Sunday off Paul Maholm. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Adam Dunn belts a solo home run in the fourth inning Sunday off Paul Maholm. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 1, 2012 12:46PM

He still drops in a “dude’’ at least once in an interview.

That will never change for Adam Dunn.

The tone is very different this season, however. “Dude’’ is said with excitement, conviction. It’s not the drawn-out “duuude’’ of a guy who was lost, a guy who was searching just a year ago.

So Dunn can enjoy the moment when he’s asked to compare the home run he hit in the fourth inning to the shot Tyler Flowers connected on an inning later in the White Sox’ 6-0 victory.

“I don’t know,’’ Dunn said, running over the two homers in his mind. “[Tyler’s] a strong dude, man, but I got him. He got me [Sunday], but I got him in real life. [Sunday at Wrigley was] not real life. When the wind blows out like that, it’s not real life.’’

Real life for Dunn is a .247 average and a team-high 14 homers and 32 RBI. Real life is at least starting to live up to the four-year, $56 million contract he signed before the 2011 season. Real life is not dwelling on one of the worst regular seasons for a major-league player in history.

No one is forgetting the .159 average, 177 strikeouts and 11 homers in 2011, when 6-6, 285 pounds never looked so small.

The nice thing for Dunn is no one around him is dwelling on last season, either.

“Sometimes you just can’t find your way out of it,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.

Ventura would know. He went through an 0-for-41 slump as a rookie.

“You start out and then it just kind of swallows you up,’’ Ventura said.

“It’s not as much physically, but it’s just the mental grind of being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and sometimes for some people, it just doesn’t happen.

“The bigger thing is how [Dunn has] just put that behind him. And it was from even talking to him back in the winter. He was ready to go, and he was eager to start the season.’’

Embarrassment and pride will do that to a man.

Everyone wanted an explanation for last season. Too fat, too much partying on the road, too bright a spotlight to have to play under. Pick one or maybe all of the above.

What matters to Dunn and the Sox is that he got up off the mat.

“I think you learn more through the tough times than through the easy times because you don’t think too much or dig too deep when things are going good because you don’t have to,’’ Ventura said. “But when it’s going bad, you have to find something to turn it around.

‘‘For me, I learned more through my failures and struggles than I ever did when I did well. For him, we haven’t even talked about it, but just seeing him, [the doubt] is not there.’’

Where did it go? Dunn said it was simply turned off, almost like a switch.

“I’m always, believe it or not, confident,’’ Dunn said. “People say what they want about last year, but I knew a new year was coming up, and I knew I was pretty much going to get a fresh new start with a new coaching staff. First day I picked up a bat, it felt normal, so I knew it was going to be a normal year.’’

And that’s all the Sox need from him: normal. Normal will compete in the American League Central. Special would be nice, but normal will have to do for now.

“If I didn’t think I could still do this, I wouldn’t be doing it,’’ Dunn said. “I’ve said that all along.’’

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