Although it’s not uncommon for players to struggle during their first seasons after switching leagues, Dunn was so overmatched for most of 2011 that some scouts thought he wouldn’t get it figured out again. In 496 at-bats, Dunn batted .159 with 11 homers. He drove in just 42 runs.
Dunn was never considered one of the Nationals’ most dedicated players in the weight room, and some around the game said his poor conditioning had finally caught up to him. All around Dunn, there was nothing but criticism.
“I never looked at it like I’d never get out of it. You can’t look at it like that,” Dunn said. “I’m not going to excuse you to death. What happened just happened. Obviously, it wasn’t good.
“But there were a lot of things that happened over that year. New team, new league, trying to come back from things too quickly . . . it all was part of it. If I had to do it over again, I would have done it differently. Then things wouldn’t have been like that.”
Change was needed.
Dunn worked hard on his conditioning. He rebounded with a 41-homer, 96-RBI performance last year, and has two homers in six games this season. Dunn didn’t play in the White Sox’s first game against the Nationals on Tuesday.
There’s no designated hitter in interleague series played at NL ballparks, and all-star Paul Konerko is Chicago’s everyday first baseman. Dunn was on deck to pinch-hit when Konerko flied out to end the Nationals’ 8-7 victory. Even if he doesn’t play a big role against the Nationals, Dunn plans to enjoy his return.
“Everyone was good to me here,” said Dunn, who was 0 for 4 with a strikeout and played left field Wednesday night. “So to see what they’re doing now, with a young team and veterans who are good players and good people, it’s good to see. It’s definitely good for baseball.”
For more from Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.