Dunn named TSN AL Comeback Player of the Year

Dunn named TSN AL Comeback Player of the Year

CHICAGO -- Earning The Sporting News' American League Comeback Player of the Year Award, as picked by his peers, was a gratifying honor for White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn.

But still ...

"It's an award I hope I never win again," Dunn said during a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "It's one of those that's bittersweet.

"One of two things has to happen: Either you are injured for most of the year or you have a really bad, terrible season. The good thing is it's a semi-turnaround."

Dunn, 32, captured this particular award with 41 homers, 96 RBIs, 105 walks and 87 runs scored over 151 games in 2012 for the White Sox. He topped the Majors with those 105 walks, not to mention the 4.43 pitches per plate appearance he saw.

Players voted for Dunn even with his .204 batting average and 222 strikeouts, which left him two short of setting the single-season Major League record in this individual category. Batting average has never been a crucial statistic for the prolific slugger, who notched his 1,000th career RBI on Aug. 13 at Toronto and hit his 400th career home run on Aug. 18 at Kansas City. Dunn was affected by a strained right oblique for much of September.

Nonetheless, Dunn stands as a .240 career hitter and knows what he has to do during the offseason to work on making better contact in 2013 and beyond. It wasn't detailed work he could get into down the home stretch of the last season with the White Sox pushing for the playoffs.

"Coming into Spring Training next year, I feel like I have a lot better base to work through in the offseason," Dunn said. "I'm going to try to be more aggressive early in the count. Not break it down to one pitch, one location [before swinging]. Look location and hit off of that."

Major League Baseball's Comeback Player of the Year awards, announced last Friday, went to Tampa Bay's Fernando Rodney and the Giants' Buster Posey. This version was voted on by the 30 MLB.com beat writers.

There's no question Dunn deserved strong consideration, regardless of the voters, after battling through a dismal 2011 White Sox debut that featured a .159 average, 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 36 runs scored and 75 walks in 122 games. With the top-notch performances turned in by Alex Rios and Jake Peavy, Dunn fully understands that he wasn't even the lone worthy candidate on the 2012 White Sox.

"We had a number of guys mentioned throughout the season as candidates for this award, which is gratifying for us as a coaching staff," said White Sox Manager Robin Ventura in a statement released by the team. "Adam is one of the best clubhouse guys I have been around, and it's nice to see that his hard work paid off. He is deserving of the honor."

"There obviously are two guys on our team who deserve to win it more than I did," Dunn said. "Alex carried us. He played Gold Glove [Award] right field, stole bases, got big hits and hit homers. Without him, we were sunk."

Eighteen of Dunn's 41 homers either tied the game or gave the White Sox the lead, and Dunn hit a career-high 15 off of left-handers after getting just six hits in total off of left-handed pitchers in 2011. His contributions certainly were meaningful, as his eighth-inning, game-winning homer to keep the White Sox in first place on Sept. 24 would attest.

Dunn's oblique feels better, with rest simply helping that physical problem for him. Time away from the field hasn't helped soothe the disappointment of the White Sox finishing second in the American League Central after spending 117 days atop the division.

Ultimately, that team's shortcoming supersedes Dunn's excitement in joining Jim Thome (2006), Paul Konerko ('04), Frank Thomas ('00) and Bo Jackson (1993) as White Sox winners of this award.

"Because we didn't reach our goal, it's definitely a disappointing season," Dunn said. "It doesn't matter what you do if you don't reach your ultimate goal.

"Again, [the award] is probably more for my mom and dad, my wife and sons -- they really enjoy it more than I do. I don't play for that. I'm very appreciative of this award, I am. But I really wish I would have never won it because I wouldn't have to have the bad go with the good. I like the good with the good."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.