Dunn brings fresh perspective to camp
Slimmed-down slugger re-dedicates himself at plate, in field
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Reds left fielder Adam Dunn had the required ingredients on Monday to put last season behind him.An early arrival to camp? Check. A slimmed down physique? Definitely. A renewed attitude and dedication to the game? Believe it. "I'm just ready to get going and forget about last year," said Dunn, who arrived two days ahead of the position players' reporting date. Dunn hit 40 home runs last season, the third consecutive season he's reached that mark. He also led the National League with 112 walks. But he also batted just .234 with 92 RBIs and scored 99 runs while leading the Majors with 194 strikeouts. It was the final two months of the 2006 season that seemed to sting Dunn the most. He batted .176 (33-for-188) from Aug. 1 through the end of the season. "I spent all offseason thinking. The last two months on me were terrible," Dunn said. "I'll try to do everything I can not to let that happen again." Dunn, 27, looked like he dropped a few pounds off of his 6-foot-6, 275-pound frame during the winter. "I think I ate a lot better," he said. "That's probably the main thing. I didn't really change my workout. I just ate better. I lifted a lot, did a lot more running than I usually do. I just tried to clear my mind and start over." Reds manager Jerry Narron was impressed by what he saw. "I love that he's here early," Narron said. "I love that he worked hard this winter. He's in great shape right now. It's awesome." Also pleasing Narron was that Dunn had already gotten together with new hitting coach Brook Jacoby during the offseason. Jacoby worked with Dunn when he was still a prospect in the Minor Leagues, and there's hope he can help him cut down on the strikeout totals. "[Jacoby] came down about a month ago, and we talked about some stuff and we hit a little bit together," Dunn said. "He's seen me at my best, so he knows what I need to work on."
"Adam has a chance to put up numbers in this game that only a very few guys have," Narron said. "What, he's only 27 years old? How many home runs does he have?"Dunn has 198 career homers. "He knows he can be a great player in the Major Leagues for quite a while," Narron continued. "I think the way he's come in shape here shows he's dedicated to being the very best player he can be. If he does that, the numbers will take care of [themselves]." For most of his seven-year career in the Majors, Dunn has been known mainly as the hulking strikeout-prone slugger that's launched tape-measure homers at ballparks around the league. Good defense was never part of that reputation, and for good reason. Dunn committed 13 errors last season and has been a below-average outfielder much of his career. Dunn wants that to change, too. He plans to work on his defense often with outfield coaches Billy Hatcher and Ed Napoleon. "That's something I probably took a little too lightly in the past," Dunn said. "That's going to be my main focus this spring. Not to just be a good [outfielder], I'm going to try and be a great one. I think I can." "I liked hearing what he had to say about playing defense and getting out there and working at it and being the best left fielder he can possibly be," Narron said. At this time last year, Dunn was preparing himself for a possible position change to first base. He had a new first baseman's glove and played some exhibition games there. "I have no plans of putting him over at first base," Narron declared on Monday. "Good, that'll work," Dunn said. "I'll concentrate on the main thing now." A leaner, meaner and more complete Dunn can only help the Reds be competitive in the NL Central race. "He's got a tremendous inner desire, inner drive to be an outstanding player," Narron said. "He just doesn't show it at times, or people don't see it. I don't think people see the drive he's got."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.