Should Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura use his designated hitter in the outfield when his team comes up against National League opponents? Absolutely.
Even if that player is Adam Dunn? In a heartbeat.
The White Sox are approaching their first interleague games with the first round of the Crosstown Classic on the North Side this weekend. The bulk of Chicago's interleague schedule is in June, but the series with the Cubs should be Ventura's first chance to decide on what Dunn will be doing when the action is in a National League park.
In 2011, Dunn played in six of the nine interleague games in which the White Sox were on the road. He pinch-hit in two of those games and split the four starts between first base and right field.
Dunn's production was dismal in those appearances, much in line with his terrible 2011 season. He laid a goose egg in 15 at-bats, walking twice and scoring a lone run.
Why, then, should Dunn patrol the outfield grass at Wrigley Field? Simple. He's a different player this season and right now the White Sox need his stick in the lineup every day.
Less than two months into the 2012 season, Dunn has already bested his home-run output of the season before. His first-inning shot to right Monday got Chicago on the board after Detroit got three runs in the top half against a struggling John Danks.
It was Dunn's 12th homer of the year, good for third in the majors. Dunn's 28 RBI are sixth in baseball. Dunn needs to be in the lineup.
With Konerko also taking a lion's share of the offense, Ventura needs to keep his third and fourth hitters in the game. That removes using Dunn at first for all but a game or two. Alex Rios is playing strong in right and is also hitting the ball. To me, that equals Dunn in left field in the interleague games.
Is this going to weaken the White Sox defensively? Perhaps not as much as you think.
As recently as 2009, Dunn played more than half his season in the outfield with Washington. He played 141 games the season between the Reds and Diamondbacks. He was a below-average glove out there, but he knows his way around those ivy-covered walls.
Dayan Viciedo has all of 50 games in the outfield and is still a novice in many ways in the position. It isn't like Dunn is taking the place of Willie Mays if Ventura opts to pencil him in left field.
With the way Dunn is hitting, that's just what Ventura needs to do. It keeps Chicago's best two hitters in the batting order and gives them the best chance at winning on the road when facing the senior circuit.
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