Adam Dunn, friend to all new coaches.
I spent the evening indexing 305 proper nouns and making the final edits forOutsider 2012, so pardon me as I jog through the day's news.
The White Sox picked up their first victory of the spring by beating the Texas Rangers on Thursday afternoon. Adam Dunn led the way, homering, doubling and driving in four runs, which is good news. The gritty, in-your-face realism (which is the only way I roll) is that Dunn homered, doubled and drove in four on Opening Day last year.
However, Dunn's double came against a lefty, so there is a difference after all. So I wouldn't be on watch for omens, but hey, if he happens to get another vestigial organ removed early next week, we know what to do from there.
Dunn, who has downplayed the changes in his preparation and conditioning, loosened up a little after his first big spring day and offered a few details:
"I am seeing the ball good. And that's over half the battle for me, seeing it," Dunn said. "I can tell by taking pitches, I'm seeing them good. The things we're actually working on in the cage as of now, that's what we're seeing, it's helping. I'm staying back, I'm not cutting off my swing. Right now, I've got good length. I can give you all kinds of technical terms, but it doesn't really mean a lot. But the swing path feels like the ball is going where it should, the direction."
Also, it seems like he's picking up what Jeff Manto is putting down:
Dunn isn't alone in his praise of Manto. Scott Merkin went down the list of White Sox hitters in need, getting Manto's impressions of what they need to hear and do. He also received Tyler Flowers' input about Manto, and I thought his insights were the most interesting:
"I think me and him are on the same page on a lot of things,’’ Dunn said. "You should always have that in a hitting coach and I think he realizes I do have a plan, whether people believe that or not. I have a plan each and every time I’m up there.’’
That approach seems to have resonated with White Sox hitters through two weeks of work. Tyler Flowers pointed up an example from batting practice Wednesday when he was getting quick. One of his keys is to slow his feet down a bit, which Manto presented to him.
"All of a sudden, I get back on track," Flowers said. "He's not a huge mechanical guy. He'll tell you if he sees something glaring at him, but he's really trying to address going up there with a plan every time, taking an approach that's compatible with what the pitcher's strengths are. [He's] trying to work and understand what that pitcher is going to do to you."
White Sox coaches are a study in contrast this year. On one hand, you have Robin Ventura representing an antacid to Ozzie Guillen's excesses, and now here's Manto, who is reluctant to partake in the mechanical talk that Greg Walker slung around. I'm not putting a ton of stock in the tout quotes at this point, but for the first time in about seven years, there are serious variables in play.
If you want to hear Manto's side of it -- and see Dunn's double, which was smoked -- watch this video (as a bonus, you can enjoy watching Gordon Beckham leave the yard).
I had wondered about what would become of Hector Santiago this spring, because he seems to be naturally overlookable. It took surprisingly long for him to escape the low minors, and even when he came out of nowhere to succeed in a cup of coffee last season, he was mostly forgotten about afterward. He didn't make some Top 10 prospects lists, which I thought was most bizarre.
He stood to lose more than most with the managerial change, because Ozzie Guillen singled out Santiago for his excellent work in extended mop-up duty, and with a new guy in charge, he might be a couple bad outings from undoing the progress he made.
No worries, though, because it appears that Santiago is in control of his destiny after throwing two scoreless innings against Texas. He allowed two hits and a walk while striking out three, with a heavy dose of screwballs (roughly a dozen of his 45 pitches), and Robin Ventura, in turned, called him the "B" word:
"He doesn't back down," said Ventura of Santiago, who seems to be the long relief leader for the bullpen. "He's facing some good hitters and they have a great lineup and to see him go after them like that, and getting in a little bit of a bind and get out of it. ... It's great to see."