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But Paul Konerko's sore neck has forced new manager Robin Ventura to use Dunn at first base often in the early going. Dunn has played down to expectations there, but his fielding foibles have not greatly cost the team. Meantime, something odd has been happening at the plate when Dunn's been in the lineup as a fielder instead of a designated hitter: he's been making contact.
Dunn is hitting .236 overall—77 points higher than last year. He has nine home runs in just 30 games. He does lead the league in strikeouts, with 45, but he's been an all-or-nothing swinger throughout his career, except for last season, when he dropped the "all."
As DH, Dunn is batting .226 and slugging .492. That's markedly better than his forlorn totals last season (.159, .277). But as a first baseman this year, he's hitting better still: .275, with four homers and four doubles in just 40 official at bats. His slugging percentage is .675.
This is hardly a big enough sample from which to draw conclusions and theorize on them, but this is sports, so we will. We suspect Dunn has been struggling with hyperactivity. Lounging on the bench between innings makes him jumpy as a Chihuahua inside. The chance to cavort by the first-base bag—to drop a pickoff toss or muff a throw from Gordon Beckham—is like a martini for him. So when first baseman Dunn comes to the plate, he's mellow, relaxed, and it pays off. Even when Konerko is fully healthy again, Ventura ought to play Dunn in the field as much as possible. Imagine the big fella at shortstop; wouldn't you pay to see that?
While Dunn has improved in the batter's box thus far, there's still a yawning hole in his offensive stats. He's hitting an even .100 against southpaws, with a pair of doubles and a single single—and 15 strikeouts—in 30 at bats.
One hundred is a good score on spelling tests. A buck once was a fine price for a gallon of gas. But .100 remains a troubling batting average.
And here the sample size isn't so small. Last season Dunn hit .064 against lefties. In his 124 at bats against lefties as a White Sox player, Dunn is hitting a remarkable .073—and his next homer off a southpaw will be his first.
So when the Sox are facing lefties, Ventura ought to strongly consider upgrading to someone—anyone—else. The problem is that the Sox bench is weak; there's no obvious right-handed hitter to platoon with the Big Breeze.
May we suggest Ken Harrelson? True, the Sox TV audience would lose the chance to learn what Yaz told Hawk in spring training of 1967, but it might be worth it.