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Dunn rebounded in ‘12, but says it meant nothing because White Sox missed playoffs

Chicago White Sox v ToronBlue Jays

Chicago White Sox v Toronto Blue Jays

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Updated: March 3, 2013 7:51PM



PHOENIX — “It’s early” in spring training means “it’s really early” this year. Camps opened about a week earlier than usual because of the World Baseball Classic.

Starting pitchers are not pitching for some teams, the White Sox included, until this weekend. Hitters are finding things to do with their spare time.

“I’m trying to take advantage of the extra time by working on things,’’ designated hitter Adam Dunn said. “Small stuff, nothing too major.’’

Dunn has toyed with keeping his hands back farther in his stance and is also experimenting with standing farther away from the plate. Minor adjustments can make a major difference for an all-or-nothing hitter.

Approach-wise, Dunn wants to be more aggressive early in counts to avoid passing up good pitches, and he wants to cut down on strikeouts (he fanned 222 times last season). He backed away from the plate slightly against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the Cactus League opener Saturday.

“I need to back off the plate, but the problem is, when I do, I completely lose my strike zone, and I’m taking pitches that are strikes and swinging at pitches that are balls,’’ Dunn said.

Dunn said he’d hit more balls to left field standing away from the plate, something manager Robin Ventura has said he’d like to see. But that’s not an easy transition for a hitter with a good eye for the strike zone.

“Kershaw gave me three pitches away — they looked like they were that far away,’’ Dunn said, holding his hands apart. “I couldn’t even swing at them.’’

Those are game-day changes. In batting cages and in batting practice, Dunn is trying to keep his hands back. He’s trying it out in games, too, but for him, it’s good to have something to do between games — especially this early in the spring.

“I love to hit in a game,’’ he said. “In BP and the cage, I turn up the intensity, but it’s just not the same, so it’s good having something to work on.’’

Last offseason, Dunn worked on putting a horrific 2011 season behind him. He pulled it off, hitting 41 homers and driving in 96 runs while hitting only .204, 36 points below his career average. The production, by his standards, was adequate and good enough to win two comeback player of the year awards, something he appreciated but isn’t proud of.

By any means.

“It’s kind of embarrassing, actually, to win something like that because something bad has happened to you previously,’’ said Dunn, who batted .159 with 11 homers and 42 RBI in 2011. “It wasn’t anything injury-wise; it was just a bad year.

“It’s cool to have your peers vote for you, but it’s not something you want to make a habit of winning, that’s for sure.’’

Dunn’s bounce-back production helped keep the Sox in first for 117 days, but he says it’s all meaningless.

“It would be like throwing eight touchdown passes in a game and you lose,’’ said Dunn, a quarterback in high school and briefly at Texas. “It looks cool, but it’s useless.’’

For Dunn, satisfaction isn’t always guaranteed.

“I don’t think anyone is where they want to be unless you’re winning the triple crown,’’ he said. “There are a lot of things I need to do better. But I’m not going to harp on the bad things. I don’t sit back and look at the year and say, that was great, I did this or that. It was a wasted year. It all went for naught. We played the same amount of games as the worst-placed team.’’

BREWERS 4, WHITE SOX 3

FOR THE RECORD: The White Sox finally lost a game after winning three and tying two. Prospect Scott Snodgress gave up a two-run homer to Khris Davis, and Addison Reed allowed a two-run homer to Josh Prince. Josh Bell homered in the ninth inning for the Sox.

Special K: Keenyn Walker, the Sox’ first pick (47th overall) in the 2011 draft, doubled, stole a base and threw out catcher Jonathan Lucroy from right field trying to score on a single.

Bell-ringer: Bell, a switch-hitting third baseman who has played in 100 major-league games, is swinging like he wants in on consideration for a job as the 25th man. He’s 4-for-7 with a homer, triple, double and five RBI.

Axelrod good again: Dylan Axelrod (two scoreless innings) has allowed no runs, two hits and no walks with six strikeouts over five innings.

Not bad, for starters: Snodgress made his second outing, this one a three-inning start. The Sox’ top lefty pitching prospect gave up two hits, including the two-run homer to Davis. “I felt great about it,’’ Snodgress said of his outing. “I hung that curveball and made a mistake there, but I’m going to learn from it and hopefully not make that same mistake again.”

Giving them what they want: The Sox want to see leadoff man Alejandro De Aza bunt his way on base more, and he obliged with a bunt single to go along with a conventional single.

On deck: at Indians, 2:05 Friday. Chris Sale pitches against Justin Masterson in a starting matchup of possible Opening Day starters. Masterson already has been announced as such.

Daryl Van Schouwen



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