CHICAGO -- For those who take their baseball like the military treats wake-up calls, this one is not for you.
For those who aren’t afraid to indulge in a slice of cake every once in a while, well, Adam Dunn brought the batter, the frosting, one of those knives that doubles as a spatula, and a whole stack of plates.
Dunn, who left before talking about his one-inning pitching performance Tuesday night, addressed the event Wednesday, shocked to learn it resonated so well among many.
“I didn’t think it would be this big of a deal,” he said, while still in street clothes Wednesday morning. “I thought it would just be a big deal to me.”
All he had to do Tuesday night was hear the roar of what was left of a modest crowd, when he took the mound against the Texas Rangers to know something was different. That there were actually people that stayed to see it, with the White Sox trailing 15-0 at the time, might have been more incredible than the fact that Dunn gave up just one run with a “fastball” that only registered as high as 83 mph on the radar gun.
Dunn claimed no residual soreness Wednesday morning and was in the lineup for the series finale against the Rangers as the designated hitter.
“I wasn’t going out there trying to throw 100 mph,” he said. “That’s what I told (manager) Robin (Ventura): ‘I’m not going to go out there to see how hard I can throw. I just want to throw strikes and more importantly try to break somebody’s bat.’”
After a pop up on the infield in the ninth inning, the Rangers’ J.P Arencibia said that Dunn nearly broke his bat, but that the lumber actually lived to see another day.
And how would Dunn break bats with a pitch in the low 80-mph range? A heavy sinker might do it. The Rangers claim that is what Dunn was throwing. If he was, Dunn himself wasn’t about to admit it. At one moment Dunn said he just threw, at another he said he had every pitch known to man in his arsenal.
“Whatever (catcher Adrian Nieto) put down, I just threw it,” Dunn said. “Obviously it was fun. I wish he wouldn’t have given up a run. But I think that was the perfect time and I think a game like that, having a couple of games like that in three or four days, it was perfect and something I wanted to do probably since Day 1.”
Dunn’s request to pitch had been hanging in the air for so long that Ventura didn’t even need words to let his designated hitter know that he would be pitching later in that game.
“We made eye contact in about the sixth or seventh (inning), and he just nodded, so he knew what I was thinking,” Ventura said. “He was up for it. He was a good sport.”
Why ask a position player to pitch in the first place? It typically happens in runaway games when it no longer makes sense to burn up another reliever in a game that has long been decided as Tuesday’s eventual 16-0 defeat obviously was. It can also happen late in extra innings when teams run out of pitchers.
“You don’t like it, but in the end, I don’t see the difference between 15-0 and 16-0,” Ventura said. “You don’t want to use another body out of the bullpen and hopefully save somebody. At that point, it does change the morale of your team, if you’re getting your ass kicked and all of the sudden you put in Dunn to pitch. I think it’s a different feeling today than it was if you run out the game and keep going.”
White Sox players talked afterward about how it helped change the conversation from a second lopsided defeat in three days to a moment that made things fun again.
“Every team goes through one or a couple of those a year,” Dunn said. “I always wanted to get out there and see how hard it is. I know how hard it is on the other side. I wanted to see how hard it is on that side. It’s fun. It’s something different.”
As for that “fastball” that topped out at 83 mph, Dunn insists he still has 10 mph more in his arm, but the former Texas backup quarterback wasn’t about to dig that deep Tuesday. He claims to have thrown 188 pitches in a 10-inning game during his junior year of high school and said the ball came out of his hand much better then.
Even John Danks, who have up nine runs in 4 2/3 innings Tuesday, had to smile when asked about Dunn’s performance.
“That’s the fun part about it,” Dunn said. “You are getting your butt kicked and there’s nothing else to do. You can go out and someone can hit a homer and we’re on the board, but it’s not the same as getting a guy going out there who doesn’t pitch. It was perfect timing.”
Dunn helped increase the levity. His first pitch was a strike, but when his second pitch missed the zone, he slammed his glove to his leg. Did he think he already was getting squeezed by home-plate umpire Chris Conroy?
“It was a strike,” Dunn said. “If I’m hitting, it’s called. Book it.”