Nobody would confuse Adam Dunn with Jake Peavy when it comes to on-field demeanor, but the Donkey rivals the Bulldog when it comes to wanting to get back in the lineup after injury -- and all the problems such overzealousness entails.
Dunn infamously dropped the line "I'm a quick healer, like Wolverine" when refusing to entertain the notion of a DL stint following an appendectomy, and he would later admit that rushing back started his slide into the abyss. He used the same "quick healer" line (minus the X-Men reference) when making a surprisingly quick turnaround from an oblique strain last September. Initially, the oblique only caused him to miss a couple days. But after starting three straight games, it proved too much to overcome. The injury forced him out of the lineup for the next seven games, and even then, he struggled the rest of the season.
Those incidents come to mind as Dunn tries to escape another slump triggered by a too-speedy recovery. Back spasms forced Dunn to exit the May 18 game against the Angels in the fifth inning, but he was back in the lineup the very next day, and every one since. That seemed highly unusual at the time, because two other teammates had battled back spasms before him. Jeff Keppinger missed four games in late April. Even Peavy, who we know is no stranger to Jedi Mind Tricks on the training staff, had to skip a start. Tyler Flowers adds some additional context, as back spasms forced him out of the lineup the last three games.
Making matters murkier, Dunn's previous premature turn stuck in his mind when answering questions about this most recent injury:
"I'm going back to what happened last year," said Dunn, recalling how he struggled in September after returning too soon from an oblique strain. "There are times when the Tommy Tough Guy doesn't work out too well for you. So I was really making sure I like where everything is. I odn't want one game to screw up three weeks. But I felt good enough to think I'll be fine."
So Dunn returned to the lineup immediately, and it hasn't gone well. Since leaving the Angels game, he's 2-for-25 with four walks and 13 strikeouts. He did knock both hits out of the yard, and both were important homers in victories, but there's a lot of missing production unaccounted for, and the back is apparently the culprit, according to Robin Ventura's pregame comments:
"He's doing something. You don't necessarily know what it is unless you're the guy at the plate," Ventura said. "But it is a little different, and eventually he's going to get healthy and get back to kind of that run we went on when we went back on the road trip."
Now, following the game, Dunn said that his back had improved:
Back issues have bothered Dunn since he left a May 18 game in Anaheim. But Dunn said that problem has begun to get better.
"Hopefully, it will be really good tomorrow and we'll get rolling," Dunn said.
But who can really say if Dunn is actually approaching 100 percent, or if he's merely using an end -- in this case, a two-run homer off Alex Sanabia -- to justify the means? His intentions might be honorable, but they shouldn't earn him the benefit of the doubt, especially since this is the third time.
Should it not be "really good" today, it remains to be seen if Ventura can see through it. However, the weird configuration of the crosstown series could add some clarity to his thinking.
The White Sox will start what's essentially a four-game series with the Cubs tonight, starting with two games at U.S. Cellular Field and two games at Wrigley. The latter pair will afford Ventura the chance to bench Dunn without officially benching him, due to the lack of a designated hitter and lefty Travis Wood scheduled for Thursday.
If Dunn's performance warrants conservative action for once, it could cost Dunn a chance to hit in a place he demolished during his National League days. However, since joining the White Sox, his numbers on the North Side are a mixed bag (2-for-17, both homers, seven walks, seven strikeouts). But heck, even if carried the Wrigley Wrecking Ball act to the Sox, that still wouldn't be a sufficient excuse to start him amid persistent struggles. The Sox have wasted many months making up reasons why Dunn "needs" to play when his physical condition suggests he should sit, and as Peavy's last two years have proved, it's never too late to start acting responsibly.