It didn't take long for Ozzie Guillen to know his new free agent slugger Adam Dunn was in store for a rough season.
In fact, the former Chicago White Sox manager didn't even need to see Dunn in a regular season at-bat to forecast trouble. Sitting in his Scottsdale, Ariz., office on the first day of spring training, Guillen was approached by then-hitting coach Greg Walker, who had just watched a batting practice session with Dunn, Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin and A.J. Pierzynski.
Guillen, who is entering his first season as Miami Marlins manager, eventually relented and saw Dunn for himself.
"I looked at his swing and I told [bench coach] Joey Cora going home, 'We've got a big problem,' " Guillen said.
That early batting practice session turned out to be a precursor for one of the worst major league seasons of all time.
Signed to a four-year, $56 million deal in the offseason, Dunn batted .159 with 177 strikeouts in 415 at-bats. A proven run producer, Dunn had 100 RBIs in six of the previous eight seasons but finished 2011 with 44 RBIs. He had five seasons with 40-plus home runs seasons, but he hit just 11 in 2011.
"It was painful to see Adam Dunn every at-bat and walk behind me [in the dugout] with a long face [after] striking out," Guillen said.
Guillen said the team and Dunn tried everything to help him snap out of it. Signed to be the primary designated hitter after spending his entire career in the National League, Dunn got more time at first base and the outfield to perhaps prevent him from thinking too much about his at-bats on the bench as the DH. The team brought up pitchers from the minor leagues to throw to him, watched video of his swings. Nothing worked.
"People in Chicago, believe me, he tried everything in his power to get better," Guillen said. "He just had a bad year. Hopefully he will bounce back."