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Adam Dunn is a hit again

White Sox slugger shakes off terrible 2011 to help key team's surge

May 30, 2012|By Matt Lindner, For RedEye

All Adam Dunn could talk about this past offseason was about how the White Sox made a smart move getting the old version of him back for 2012.

His numbers appear to have turned him into a prophet. He's hit as many home runs (11) in the month of May as he did all of last year, his average is up more than 80 points, and he's on pace to draw more than 100 walks for the first time in three years.

"I think he's better in every facet of his game," teammate Paul Konerko said. "If you can get through what he went through last year, you're that much stronger."

It's credit the Houston-born Dunn is quick to downplay.

"Hitting is kind of contagious," he said. "Seems like when we're hitting, everybody's hitting, and when we're not, nobody's hitting. You've just gotta ride it out as long as you can."

So what exactly is different this year as opposed to last?

"Not a whole lot actually," Dunn said. "I feel great but it seems like I'll have some home run swings there, everything else falls into place."

While Konerko's quest for .400 may be grabbing all the headlines in town these days, Dunn is quietly authoring one of the more remarkable comeback stories in recent Chicago sports history. And it's coincided with a Sox surge into first place, including their current eight-game win streak after Wednesday's win in Tampa Bay.

The man fans call Big Donkey has helped key and offensive explosion on the South Side that has made new hitting coach Jeff Manto look like a genius. So, clearly Manto watched a lot of tape on Dunn and came up with a specific game plan to bring back the player the Sox thought they were getting when they signed him to a four-year, $56 million contract prior to the 2011 season, right?

Wrong again.

"I didn't watch any film on Adam Dunn because I didn't want to come in with an idea," Manto said. "I wanted to know the person first. Sometimes when we look at video, that's our perception and that certainly wasn't the reality of who Adam was. I came in with no preconceived notions."

One thing everybody seems to agree on that's different about the 2012 version of Dunn is his newfound patience at the plate.

Dunn has seemingly made it a priority to see more pitches and go deeper in the count this year. On Sunday against the Indians, nearly 20 percent of the pitches starter Ubaldo Jimenez threw were to Dunn, resulting in a pair of six-pitch at-bats and a pair of walks.

"The more pitches you obviously see early in the game, (the starter) won't be around later," Dunn said.

Konerko says Dunn's resurgence is a big part of the reason why he and fellow slugger Dayan Viciedo are off to such hot starts.

"It changes the whole way teams pitch to the guys in front of him, guys behind him," Konerko said. "He takes a ton of walks so even in his outs, Adam goes 3-2 counts almost every time he goes up there."

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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