Dunn’s streak of seven straight seasons with at least 38 homers ended and after the All-Star break, he homered only twice and had eight RBIs. He also struggled mightily against left-handers, batting .064 (6 for 94) with one extra-base hit.
“I know I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, whether they are in baseball, football, basketball, writers, anything,” Dunn said. “If you want to call it motivation, you can. I don’t think you need a lot of motivation to go out and play every day.”
Dunn is affable and well-liked in the clubhouse, where his teammates watched him handle his awful season.
“They reason why he came over is because he could hit. He just had a rough year last year,” said White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd. “He’s one of the best guys in this clubhouse. You knew with his personality he’s going to put it behind him and start fresh. That’s what he’s been doing.”
Ventura said he would try to get Dunn more time at first base to give Paul Konerko time off, and he could play him in left field this coming weekend when the White Sox play the Cubs at Wrigley Field where there will be no DH.
Dunn appeared in 35 games at first and a couple in the outfield last season. He’s been at first 12 times already this season and his homer Monday night off Detroit’s Drew Smyly was his first against a southpaw since the 2010 season.
Dunn said he got a needed pat on the back at the team’s winter convention when the fans cheered him as he was introduced. Even though he recently ended a streak of 36 games in which he struck out at least once _ a stretch of whiffs dating to last season _ he’s been mostly cheered during the first six weeks at U.S. Cellular Field.
“Obviously it make it a little easier when you feel people have your back,” he said.
Dunn has been open to various drills from Manto to help him out. But what happened last season wasn’t so much physical as it was mental. Especially after it dragged on all season.
“I don’t go out and think about mechanics,” he said. “When you get on the field, when I’m doing my best, I don’t really think about anything except kind of seeing what I’m hitting.”
And this year he’s been seeing a lot better.
Entering Tuesday, Dunn was 23 homers shy of 400 for his career and had already walked 28 times this season, while batting .250 with 53 strikeouts. He was only 14 RBIs away from last year’s total.
“It’s a big thing,” Ventura added. “You get a three-hole hitter out of what people were seeing last year compared to what you see now. The credit goes to him, the way he came into spring training and he’s continuing it into the season.”