GLENDALE, Ariz. -- White Sox hit-and-miss slugger Adam Dunn has four home runs and only two strikeouts this spring. "One, really. I'm not counting the other one,'' he said, still disputing a call on a borderline 3-and-2 pitch.
Dunn seeks a fresh start after a season so improbably bad, it confounds everyone around the team and elsewhere, too.
"I'm fine,'' Dunn said, reassuring a visitor. "It's a new year.''
The old year would be unspeakable, except that so many folks come to Dunn to ask him about it, and being a most likeable lug, he can't say no. He retained his job, which may have more to do with three more guaranteed years at big money than even past succeses. But it doesn't appear he's brought a defeatist attitude that can follow such abject failure. He certainly looks like his old self this spring, as he leads the White Sox with the four home runs, has 12 RBIs and is batting .308.
"The best thing that could have happened was the (final) out of 2011, cause it's over,'' Dunn said. "There's nothing I can do about it. I can't go back in time. I don't have a time machine.''
He doesn't have a ready-made reason for what went wrong, and boy did it go horribly wrong. He hit .159, which would have been record territory had he not sat a few games late to keep his at-bats below the number required to qualify. He struck out 177 times in 415 at-bats, which is almost impossibly atrocious. Had he not signed a $52-million, four-year deal, he probably would have been cut. He was that bad.
He took it hard, he said.
"It was a lot harder than what I thought,'' he said. "This is your job. This is your livelihood. I don't care what you do for a living, having a year like that is not very fun.''
There are at least "seven or eight'' theories as to how the slugger who was as consistent as anyone fell apart last year, according to a White Sox person, and they include ...
1. The big contract got him.
2. The new big city was too much.
3. He never recovered from an April appendectomy.
4. He couldn't adjust to DHing.
5. He doesn't really love baseball. (A few folks still contend this, though I see no evidence of that. Would someone who didn't love baseball hit exactly 40 home runs four straight years, as Dunn once did?)
Dunn is just happy to be feeling good ("I feel a litttle better this spring than I have in past springs, I don't know why"), and he certainly doesn't want to re-live the nightmare that was 2011.
"I have (moved on),'' Dunn said. "If people would stop asking me about it, I wouldn't think about it. I understand it. I get it. But there's got to be a point where it stops.''
The point may only be a few weeks away. What it would take is a start reminiscent of the player he used to be.