(MCT) — GLENDALE, Ariz. — The numbers scream for change, but Adam Dunn admits his mission to swing at more pitches earlier in counts presents a challenge.
“I’m fighting myself over this,” Dunn said, “because I don’t want to give up something that I do very well, like walks and get deep in counts, to something in the past I haven’t done very well, and that’s being more aggressive early on.”
Nevertheless, Dunn is intent on carrying the mission through a long exhibition season that starts Saturday.
The argument for change is that Dunn hit .118 (12-for-102) with 65 strikeouts on full counts last season. But he’s apprehensive because he also drew 55 walks on full counts that helped set up run-producing situations for cleanup hitter Paul Konerko and Alex Rios, as well as ran up opponents’ pitch counts.
Since revealing his intentions in January, Dunn has come up with what he hopes is a successful solution to avoiding deep counts while not caving in to pitchers.
“We’re going to focus on an area and not a pitch,” Dunn said. “Normally I focus on a pitch, like I know a guy’s tendencies. So early in the count, I’ll try to get to a certain count because I know 70 percent of the time he throws a changeup in 1-0 counts, stuff like that.
“Instead of looking for a specific pitch in a specific location, I’m going to try this spring to look at a location early and let it fly.”
Manager Robin Ventura sees avoiding strikeouts as only one benefit of Dunn trying to swing earlier in counts.
“Sometimes you can be so selective,” said Ventura, adding that Dunn is usually successful when he puts the ball in play and is talented enough to hit to all fields and foil the strategy of defending the left-handed hitter with extreme shifts to the right.
“The shift is one of those (ploys) that works. But once he starts spreading it around, they all have to take their chances on where they’re playing.”
Dunn said he feels more comfortable looking for pitches in specific areas rather than focusing on a specific pitch. He also believes studying the tendencies of pitchers won’t be the primary teaching aid.
“What it really will require is practice,” he said, “like literally telling myself, ‘I’m swinging at this pitch until my eyes tell me otherwise,’ as opposed to saying, ‘If I don’t see fastball, shut it down.’
“It’s going to be hard. I’m not going to lie to you. But we’ve got a long spring, so it will be good.”