WASHINGTON -- When Adam Dunn arrived at Nationals Park on Tuesday for the first time in three years, he was greeted by several security guards like he never left the nation's capital.
Although he only spent two seasons with the Nationals, the Chicago White Sox designated hitter is fondly remembered by the fans and staff for his affable demeanor. Dunn also was a force in the lineup, averaging 38 home runs and 104 RBIs in 2009 and 2010. Dunn sat at his locker prior to the game surrounded by reporters and a host of well-wishers, and said no one should be surprised about the Nationals’ recent run of success.
"I don't think it's a surprise to anyone here or anyone in baseball," Dunn said. "I caught kind of the beginning of it with (Stephen Strasburg coming and signing (Bryce Harper. For me, it was easy to see that these guys were going to go from a decent competitive team to one that is really, really good."
Dunn is not in the lineup for Tuesday’s series opener against Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Dunn would be back for the second game, likely in left field. Through six games, Dunn is batting .208, but has already homered twice.
"He's looking forward to playing the field," Ventura said. "The way American League teams are built, there's always one guy who is going to be left out and you have to take days off. It's not always easy for him because he's feeling pretty good and he has to sit."
Dunn's former teammates in Washington hated to see him struggle in the 2011 season when he managed just 11 homers. Dunn came roaring back last season and was named The Sporting News and Players Choice Comeback Player of the Year after finishing with 41 home runs -- his most since 2004.
"Obviously, Adam works hard and had some good years and has had a lot of good years in baseball," said Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, whose locker was next to Dunn’s. "So for him to kind of go through a season like that is tough to watch and it’s tough to have to think about what he’s going through knowing what kind of person he is and how much pride he takes in his work.
"I think Adam’s happy where he’s at. He had a great year last year, he’s on a good team."
Cooper on the mend: Sox pitching coach Don Cooper was admitted to a hospital in nearby Arlington, Va., Tuesday for diverticulitis -- a common digestive disease. White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Cooper could be back for Wednesday’s game.
"He's not feeling too good but he can still talk," Ventura said. "You know that."
Bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen will move to the bench to serve as an ad hoc pitching coach. Mark Salas, the bullpen catcher, will temporarily move into Thigpen's spot. Ventura did not expect any challenges with the shuffling.
The White Sox are are facing their first starting left-hander of the season Tuesday against the Nationals' Gonzalez.
Chicago is 163-120 (.576) in interleague play -- second only to the Yankees.
Right fielder Alex Rios has homered in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.