One of the Chicago White Sox’s most anticipated free agent signees isn’t expected to appear on the field too many times this season.
With a lineup filled mainly with right-handed hitters, getting Dunn’s consistent power and production from the left side of the plate was a priority for Chicago from the moment he became a free agent in November.
In his second season in Washington, Dunn had 38 home runs and 103 RBIs to give him at least 35 homers and more than 90 runs batted in for the seventh consecutive campaign.
Chicago completed a four-year, $56 million deal for the slugger in early December then re-signed beloved fixtures Paul Konerko(notes) and A.J. Pierzynski(notes). Konerko’s return to first base meant that Dunn would have a new spot in the lineup in his first AL season.
He consulted with former White Sox star Frank Thomas and the Indians’ Travis Hafner(notes) among others on how they handled being a DH. Last season, Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen used 15 players in that role.
“I’ve tried to talk to as many people as I can,” Dunn told the team’s official website during spring training. “It seems like everyone has a different routine, but the one thing in common is they have a routine. I need to find what mine’s going to be.
“I just want to make sure when it’s my turn to hit, I’m ready.”
Dunn will join a lineup that was fourth in the AL with 177 home runs. Konerko had a team-best 39 of those and also led the White Sox with a .312 average and 111 RBIs.
Chicago also tied for fourth in its league by hitting .268, but its 4.09 ERA ranked in the bottom half.
That’s one reason why the White Sox again finished behind rival Minnesota in the AL Central with an 88-74 record. As he begins his final season of a four-year contract, Mark Buehrle(notes) will try to start changing his staff’s fortunes.
Buehrle will also try to bounce back from one of his more difficult campaigns with a strong performance in a franchise-record ninth opening day start.
The left-hander was 13-13 with a 4.28 ERA - his second-worst career mark - in 2010. He started that campaign by allowing three hits over seven scoreless innings against Cleveland and making a highlight reel defensive play en route to his second straight Gold Glove.
The only pitcher to record at least 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings in 10 consecutive seasons will try to help out a rotation that might not have veteran Jake Peavy(notes) until later this month at the earliest.
Buehrle, though, couldn’t match his opening day start in five subsequent matchups with the Indians, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA.
Cleveland is hoping to add to those struggles this season with a healthier lineup and better production. The Indians were 12th in the AL with 646 runs, 11th with 128 home runs and their .248 average tied them for 10th.
Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera(notes), Grady Sizemore(notes), Carlos Santana(notes) and top hitter Shin-Soo Choo(notes) were among the Indians who spent time on the disabled list. Sizemore is still recovering from left knee surgery, and Michael Brantley(notes) is expected to start in his place.
“I feel so much better than last year,” manager Manny Acta told his team’s official website. “We feel good about our lineup.”
In his first season in Cleveland, Acta’s starting rotation was 12th in the AL with a 4.54 ERA. His opening day pitcher, Fausto Carmona(notes), had an improved showing in 2010 but dealt with inconsistency during the club’s 69-93 campaign.
The right-hander was 13-14 with a 3.77 ERA to match his win total from the previous two years. He posted a 5.89 ERA over those two seasons after finishing 19-8 with a 3.06 mark in 2007.
Carmona’s 4-1 start to 2010, which included two wins over the White Sox, helped him earn his first All-Star selection. That didn’t lead to a strong second half, as he was 3-7 with a 4.84 ERA in his 10 outings following the break.
He finished 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA over his final five starts and could begin this season with a win, as he’s been victorious in seven straight outings against the White Sox.