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Thursday, February 24, 2011
Frank Thomas: DH is tough transition

ESPNChicago.com

Frank Thomas figures being a designated hitter significantly cut into his career batting average, and the same could happen to Adam Dunn if the Chicago White Sox's prized offseason signing isn't handled properly this season.

Dunn, signed to a four-year, $56 million contract in the offseason, will be the White Sox's primary DH this season after spending his entire 10-year career in the National League. He figures to spell Paul Konerko at first base, and that could be key to Dunn's adjustment to his new role.

"I lost probably 20 points off my career batting average DH-ing every day. For him, coming from the NL to the AL is going to be a huge adjustment," Thomas said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I think the fans gotta to relax a little bit. Let him get going in the American League, but I believe [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] is going to do a good job giving him some time at first base because Paulie needs a little rest, too.

"[Konerko] is not getting any younger. He's in a situation where you gotta use both of these guys in and out, and you gotta keep them both fresh in the field, and I think the numbers should stay consistent. I think when you have two guys that are used to playing first base every day, split the time.

Thomas, who spent 16 seasons with the White Sox, retired after the 2008 season with 521 home runs and a .301 career batting average. After playing first base for much of his White Sox career, Thomas transitioned almost exclusively to DH for the final few seasons of his career.

"I explain to people everyday, you're pinch-hitting four times a day," Thomas said. "And you're not really involved with the game if you want to be because you got to stretch, you got to stay loose. There's more chance of an injury. Guys go in there, they get tight in the legs, take off, you hit a ball, and try to run full speed, pop hamstrings, sprain ankles, you do everything. It's a tough position."

Dunn, a career .250 hitter, began his career as an outfielder with the Cincinnati Reds and switched primarily to first base with the Washington Nationals in 2009.

"It's a hard position," Thomas said of the DH. "Most people don't understand how much work is involved, staying fresh and loose to go up and get in that bat during the ball game. It's a lot, a lot of work mentally."