White Sox

Sox Drawer: Dunn's DH dilemma

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Sox Drawer: Dunn's DH dilemma

Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011
Posted 6:30 p.m. Updated 6:56 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Being a designated hitter seems like the easiest job in sports.

Swing the bat. Sit down. Swing the bat. Sit down. Innings one through nine. April through October. How tough can it be?

Ask Adam Dunn.

The Sox 56 million dollar slugger is a 6-foot-6 beast of a man who destroys baseballs for a living. But get his thoughts on how he'll adjust to his new role as full-time DH, and the 285-pounder shrinks to about half the size.

I have no idea, Dunn said on Saturday, speaking frankly in front of his locker, his first day of spring training. Thats going to be something thats going to be my biggest challenge to find out how to keep myself warm and in the game and not be in the field.

In 10 major league seasons (all in the National League), Dunn has played over 1,000 games in the outfield, 336 at first base, but only 18 as designated hitter during interleague play.

It will definitely be an adjustment. Ive talked with some people who have done it. Well figure it out some way, if I have to put a bike in the dugout I will. I dont know what else people do.

Dunn has already spoken with longtime Cleveland Indians DH Travis Hafner for advice, not to mention White Sox legend Frank Thomas, who logged 1,310 games as a designated hitter during his 19-year career.

"I told him the key is to just stay mentally in touch with the entire game. That's it," Thomas said.

I guess easier said than done. Or Dunn.

Saturday, Dunn put on his White Sox practice uniform for the first time and headed out to the batting cage.

First swing of the year! he shouted.

By year, Dunn was clearly referring to the 2011 season. I mean, he does pick up a bat during the off-season, doesn't he?

Lets see, Dunn replied when asked after his hitting session. He paused a moment for dramatic affect before delivering the surprise of the day with a smile:

I dont.

Seriously?

Ive tried it both ways, Dunn explained. Ive tried hitting around Thanksgiving. I just feel like it works better for me, because Im going to get in bad habits hitting by myself so its good to come a few days early and lube it up. You got 40 days down here, usually it takes a hitter about two weeks.

When I asked Ozzie Guillen about Dunns off-season regiment, the White Sox manager nodded his head in agreement.

I like when the players do that. They dont do that much in the off-season and they come to spring training ready to work. I think thats the way I did it. I think its easier because you have a month and a half to get ready and sometimes you overdo stuff," said Guillen, who plans for Dunn to play some first base, but mainly DH.

Sharing a clubhouse with names like Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, and Alex Rios, the burly 285-pounder feels like he belted a home run back in December when he signed with the White Sox. He says this is already the best team hes ever played on, even before theyve played a game.

Definitely, Dunn said. No disrespect to the teams Ive been on, but this is a complete team. These guys have proven they were a great team before I got here. Hopefully I can put them over the edge.

Clean-up hitters are known to gain a ton of attention, especially when your body is twice the size of the average human being. So when the season begins, and he digs in at home plate, Dunn knows hell be the target of a red-hot spotlight, one that can burn a mans cornea.

But not his.

I dont avoid (the pressure). I embrace it. I have extremely high expectations for myself. If people dont have high expectations for me, then Im not doing something right. I embrace the pressure, I embrace the role. Im definitely going to put a lot of pressure on myself.

Swinging the bat? That's the easy part.

What to do while not swinging? He's trying to figure that out.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

Lucas Giolito relieved to be able to shed No. 1 pitching prospect label

GLENDALE, AZ — You don’t need a scale to see that Lucas Giolito lost some weight in the offseason. As he walks around Camelback Ranch, he just seems lighter. These pounds were shedded thanks to a certain label that has been detached from his name and his being.

“Lucas Giolito, number-one pitching prospect in baseball” is no more.

“Definitely. Big time relief. I carried that title for a while,” Giolito told NBC Sports Chicago. “It was kind of up and down. I was (ranked) 1 at one point. I dropped. I always paid attention to it a little bit moving through the minor leagues.”

Which for any young hurler is risky business. The “best pitching prospect” designation can mess with a pitcher’s psyche and derail a promising career. Giolito was walking a mental tightrope reading those rankings, but after making it back to the majors last season with the White Sox and succeeding, the moniker that seemed to follow him wherever he went has now vanished.

“Looking back on it, that stuff is pretty cool," Giolito said. "It can pump you up and make you feel good about yourself, but in the end the question is, what are you going to do at the big league level? Can you contribute to a team? I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to do that and all that other stuff is in the rear view."

This wasn’t the case when the White Sox acquired Giolito from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton trade in December 2016. When he arrived at spring training last year, he was carrying around tons of extra baggage in his brain that was weighing him down. Questions about his ability and makeup weren’t helping as he tried living up to such high expectations.

“Yeah, I’d say especially with the trade coming off 2016 where I didn’t perform well at all that year," Giolito said. "I got traded over to a new organization, I still have this label on me of being a top pitching prospect while I’m going to a new place, I’m trying to impress people but at the same time I had a lot of things off mechanically I was trying to fix. Mentally, I was not in the best place as far as pitching went. It definitely added some extra pressure that I didn’t deal with well for a while."

How bad was it for Giolito? Here are some of the thoughts that were scrambling his brain during spring training and beyond last season.

“I saw I wasn’t throwing as hard. I was like, ’Where did my velocity go?’ Oh, it’s my mechanics. My mechanics are bad. I need to fix those,” Giolito said. “Then I’m trying to make adjustments. Why can’t I make this adjustment? It compounds. It just builds and builds and builds and can weigh on you a ton. I was 22 turning 23 later in the year. I didn’t handle it very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself to fix all these different things about my performance, my pitching and trying to do it all in one go instead of just relaxing and remembering, ‘Hey, what am I here for? Why do I play the game?’”

Still, pitching coach Don Cooper wanted to see what he had in his young prospect. So last February, he scheduled him to make his White Sox debut against the Cubs in front of a packed house in Mesa.

“It was kind of like a challenge," Giolito said. "They fill the stadium over there. I’m like, ‘Alright here we go."

Giolito gave up one run, three hits, walked one and struck out two in two innings against the Cubs that day.

“I pitched OK," he said. "I think I gave up a home run to Addison Russell. At the same time, I remember that game like I was forcing things. I might have pitched okay, but I was forcing the ball over the plate instead of relaxing, trusting and letting it happen which is kind of my mantra now. I’m saying that all the time, just having confidence in yourself and letting it go.”

A conversation in midseason with Charlotte Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, suggested by Cooper, helped turn Giolito’s season around. The lesson for Giolito: whatever you have on the day you take the mound is what you have. Don’t force what isn’t there.

Fortunately for Giolito he has extra pitches in his arsenal, so if the curveball isn’t working (which it rarely did when he came up to the majors last season) he can go to his change-up, fastball, slider, etc.

It’s all part of the learning process, both on the mound and off it. Setbacks are coming. Giolito has already had his share. More will be on the way.

“You want to set expectations for yourself. You want to try and achieve great goals,” he said. “At the same time, it is a game of failure. There’s so much that you have to learn through experience whether that be success or failure. Especially going through the minor leagues. There’s so much that you have to learn and a lot of it is about development. It’s a crazy ride for sure.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: