Author: Bob Harkins


Adam Dunn won’t worry about his Ks, and neither should you


Adam Dunn strikes out a lot. Everyone knows that.

The Chicago White Sox designated hitter has whiffed more than 1,600 times in 10 seasons, including 199 times in 2010. And he’s continuing to strike out quite a bit this spring – 22 times in just 53 at-bats.

So is there reason for White Sox fans to be concerned?

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen certainly isn’t worried, telling Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune that he’s more focused on keeping players healthy than how they perform at this stage of spring training.

That makes perfect sense. Strikeouts are just part of the Adam Dunn package. It’s a package that also includes a ton of home runs (282 since 2004), a ton of walks (750 in the same period) and a career OPS of .902. In the case of Dunn, the positives far outweigh the negatives.

For his part, Dunn is fully aware of his critics.

“There’s nobody that hates it more than me I promise you,” he told me during a recent interview at the White Sox’s spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz. “It’s not something you get used to. It’s so hard to explain because I do like to take pitches, which gets me walks but also gets me in bad counts. It’s hard to hit with two strikes in this league. If I didn’t take as many pitches I probably wouldn’t strike out as much, but then I probably wouldn’t get on base as much. I can’t find a happy medium, it seems like.”

Dunn, who will be a primary DH this season for the first time in his career, pointed out that not all strikeouts should be viewed the same way, and that sometimes, depending on the situation, he will go for broke at the plate.

“What’s the difference with two outs, nobody on, if you fly out to the wall or strike out? It’s still an out, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Now, if you have a man in scoring position, especially a man on third with less than two outs, and you strike out, that’s terrible. That’s a bad strikeout.”

Dunn, who reminds one a bit of Will Ferrell, both for his size and hair, plus his wise-cracking demeanor, then promised to take our little talk to heart in the upcoming season.

“I’ve gone through every scenario,” he deadpanned. “This year I’m going to focus on swinging the bat more, and it all falls back to this interview. Whatever.”

With Dunn, what you see is what you get. White Sox fans should enjoy it.

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.

Robinson Cano says ‘no chance’ he hits 40 homers


New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano is a very good player, and with a few more seasons like 2010 (.319, 29 HRs, 109 RBIs, 103 runs), he could even become great.

But even he knows it’s wise to keep expectations in check. So on Wednesday when Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said he wouldn’t be surprised if Cano hit 40 home runs this year, Cano essentially did this.

When he regained his composure, he shared his thoughts on the matter with the media, including Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York:

“No chance.”

After the laughter died down, it became obvious Cano was serious. “Maybe if you put in an extra half a season,” he said. “That’s not in my mind. I don’t think I’m a home run hitter. Most of my home runs are line drives. If I hit it, thanks God. But it’s not the kind of thing that I think about. I just go out there and try to have a beter season than I had before. Home runs are not in my mind.”

Amusing story, but Cano is right. He isn’t Adam Dunn. Nor is he Ken Griffey Jr., who interestingly also always insisted he wasn’t a home run hitter.

Cano has an ultra-quick, compact swing and can drive the ball out of the park — particularly to the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium – when he catches it right. He’ll hit his share of homers, but that’s not all he’s about.

And while Long was merely heaping praise on a star hitter, Cano is wise to focus on just hitting the ball hard, and letting the home runs come when they do.

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.

Lincecum’s diet secret? In-N-Out Burger


Tim Lincecum is beefing up his diet in an attempt to put on some weight this spring.

From the sound of things, the Giants would be smart to keep Pablo Sandoval far, far away from their ace pitcher.

According to John Schlegel of, Lincecum is dining with gusto this spring, devouring fast food as if he were paid by the calorie. His expected meal after Wednesday’s start was a giant bag of In-N-Out Burger, consisting of three double-doubles, two orders of fries and a half-chocolate, half-strawberry milkshake.

“That’s probably not the best form of nutrients but I’ve always kind of just eaten what I’ve wanted to and worried about it later,” Lincecum said after his fifth start of the spring. “Nothing’s affected me now, so I’ll stick to it.”

Lincecum says he’s put on about 10 pounds, bringing his total to a whopping 168.

I don’t see that this is much of a problem. Lincecum is working out like a madman this spring and he has been dominant. He’s always been slight, and obviously has a crazy metabolism that burns calories as soon as they go into his body. He’s doing everything he can to put on weight and his performance on the mound isn’t suffering.

I had similar body – though far less athletic — when I was younger. I could eat anything, at any hour of the day, and still looked like, well, like this.

That all changed when I was about Lincecum’s age (26). The metabolism slowed down, and all of a sudden those egg sandwiches at midnight started sticking around a little longer than I expected. That could happen to Lincecum eventually, but as long as he feels good, the Giants won’t be concerned. As Bruce Bochy said: “Yeah, he’s put on a few pounds, he looks good out there. He’s showing off his muscles now. I wish I could eat like that.”

Amen. As Bochy, Lincecum and Theodore Donald Kerabatsos all know, those are good burgers.

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.

After frightening injury, David Newhan attempting comeback with Padres


Last week I published a seven-part series on the difficulties players face on the road to the major leagues.

Now comes the story of a player trying to make it back.

John Maffei of the North County Times has all the details of the comeback opportunity the San Diego Padres are giving to David Newhan, a jack-of-all-trades infielder/outfielder who played the last of his eight major leagues seasons in 2008.

Newhan is trying to come back from a neck injury he suffered in a surfing accident in late 2009. He injured his C2 vertebrae while diving off his surf board and hitting a sand bar. The injury, reports Maffei, is known as “The Hangman’s Fracture,” and is the same injury that left actor Christopher Reeve a quadriplegic.

“I really don’t know why I’m breathing or why I’m not in a wheelchair,” Newhan said. “The fact I’m not is a blessing. I’ve been given another opportunity, and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

The Padres are giving the 37-year-old Newhan a chance to make a comeback. And though they are not committing to Newhan even making the Triple-A roster, they say they’ll find a spot for him somewhere in the organization if he wants it.

There is a lot more in Maffei’s story, so be sure to check it out here.

Neck injuries are a weird and unpredictable thing. Back in the day when I was in the newspaper world covering high school sports, I did a story on a kid who had surgery to repair a broken neck. The injury was discovered during a routine hospital checkup following a car accident. He might have suffered the injury when he fell out of a tree as a boy, or doing any of a number of things that kids do. The doctors really didn’t know, just that the injury was an old one.

Meanwhile, this kid was an all-league safety on his high school football team and an aggressive center fielder who would sell out chasing down fly balls. At any point he could have messed himself up by hitting an opponent the wrong way or landing funny while making a diving catch. But he was lucky, and everything worked out fine.

Whether or not his comeback is successful, David Newhan is also lucky. Can he make the majors? “Crazier things have happened.” He should know.

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.

Seven men, one dream and the journey to the big leagues


The road to the big leagues is more challenging than most fans realize.

Each step up the ladder through the minor leagues produces another set of obstacles. A player’s energy is sapped by long bus rides, bad food and cheap motels. His skills are tested by opponents just as hungry as he is to reach the majors. And his desire can take a hit at any time by a prolonged slump or streak of bad luck.

I spent a week at spring training in Arizona talking to players about the challenges they have faced in chasing their big league dreams.

From established big leaguers like Torii Hunter and Colby Lewis, to journeymen like John Lindsey (pictured) and Corky Miller, to rising star Dustin Ackley, they each had a unique take on life, sports and their love of baseball.

But they all had one thing in common: To them, it’s the journey itself that matters most.

Here are their stories.

You can follow Bob on Twitter, and get all your HBT updates here.