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Adam Dunn compares Paul Konerko to game’s best hitters

Sox hitter Paul Konerko smacks 2-run homer first inning opener Cross Town Classic series pitting Chicago Cubs Chicago White Sox

Sox hitter Paul Konerko smacks a 2-run homer in the first inning of the opener of the Cross Town Classic series pitting the Chicago Cubs at the Chicago White Sox Monday June 20, 2011 at US Cellular Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 21, 2011 10:22AM

Paul Konerko’s newest fan is White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who has watched the first basemen tear through the first
2 1/2 months of the season with MVP-type numbers.

“I can’t believe more people don’t talk about him,” Dunn said. “I’m slapping myself in the face because I didn’t really know that much about him, either. It’s a shame more people don’t know about him because I’ve seen Albert [Pujols], I’ve seen some pretty good hitters, and I’m telling you I’d put him right up there with anybody.”

Konerko’s two-run home run in the first inning Monday against the Cubs was his fourth long ball in four games, and it gave him a club-record 12 seasons of 20 or more. He went into the game batting .327, and the homer raised his RBI total to 58.

“I’ve never seen a guy that makes adjustments pitch by pitch like that,” Dunn said. “When he says he’s going to look for one certain pitch and he gets it, he doesn’t miss it. That’s hard to do, man. It’s special.”

Bench it like Beckham

Second baseman Gordon Beckham, who was hitless in his last 12 at-bats and has only two hits in his last six games, was benched for a second consecutive day in favor of Omar Vizquel.

Manager Ozzie Guillen gave Dunn and Alex Rios back-to-back “mental health” days off when they were fighting slumps.

“Mentally, he’s not there,” Guillen said of Beckham.

Hitting coach Greg Walker said Beckham must simplify things at the plate.

“Looking back at Gordon’s 2009 tape, it was brilliant how simple it was,” Walker said. “When Gordon goes bad, his leg kick is bigger, his hand move is bigger and he ends up with bad posture and a loopier, longer swing. We need less of a leg kick, hand move — less of an effort level.”

Beckham’s chin was hanging
before the game. He knows he’s in a slump, but he’s a .359 hitter against the Cubs and he hoped they would bring the best out of him.

“I took some flips and extra work today,” he said. “Hope to get back in tomorrow and get back on track.”

Said Walker: “He’s a young guy who’s not confident right now, but he has to fight through it.”

Middle ground

Rios raised his hands on the bat, and that worked for a while. But after he went hitless last week in Minnesota, he dropped them about halfway down last weekend in Arizona.

The result: Home runs on consecutive days for the first time since he was a Toronto Blue Jay in 2009.

It’s safe to say he’ll keep them there.

“He has hit with his hands up, down, everywhere,” Walker said. “He’s not real low or high, but the bottom line is he’s comfortable. It’s evolved into whatever works for him, works for me.”

Walker and Rios, a pull hitter, also have focused on hitting the ball up the middle. When he overdoes it, Rios loses his swing plane and posture, Walker said.

“We went back to pounding the ball in the middle of the field, and let that point of contact and pitch location dictate where the ball goes,” he said.

In the fold

The Sox signed their fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round draft picks: Kent State right-hander Kyle McMillen, Stanford left-hander Scott Snodgress and Pitt catcher Kevan Smith.

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