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Your Morning Phil: Dunn, draft, Ozzie

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

9:00 AM CDT, April 24, 2013

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Talking baseball while wondering if Tom Thibodeau can make Deron Williams’ homecoming unpleasant:

1. When Robin Ventura introduced it in spring training, I loved the White Sox’s realigned batting order, with the 3-4-5 combination of Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. But given the 7-12 start, why not a radical change for Wednesday’s game against the Indians?

The original plan makes perfect sense. Rios is the best hitter in that trio and should be in the No. 3 spot, where he gets the most at-bats. Both Rios and Dunn have more speed than Konerko, and this puts the left-handed-hitting Dunn between the two right-handed hitters. It should work better than it has, especially with Rios hitting .300 with a .951 OPS.

But the White Sox aren’t getting enough men on base and scoring many runs. Dunn is in the worst funk he’s been in since joining the White Sox, and that says a lot. And also suddenly, leadoff man Alejandro De Aza is hitting with power. Early expectations aren’t proving correct.

So for the sake of breaking things up, I’d try this: 1. Rios, 2. Alexei Ramirez, 3. Dunn, 4. Konerko, 5. Conor Gillaspie, 6. Alejandro De Aza, 7. Jeff Keppinger, 8. John Danks/Dewayne Wise (whoever is replacing Dayan Viciedo in left field) and 9. Tyler Flowers.

Yes, I’d move the .101-hitting Dunn up in the order. Try it for a few games and see how Dunn looks.

He batted third throughout the 2012 season. It makes little sense to put a guy that strikeout-prone in that spot, I know, but Dunn hit a lot better there for most of last season than he did lower in the order in 2011, when he batted .159.

The first three guys in the order know they’re going to hit in the first inning. That could be a good thing for Dunn.

I’ve got no idea what Rios would think about hitting leadoff at this point in his career but in terms of OPS+ the only place he’s hit better in his career is the No. 2 spot. The one negative to his early performance is an 0-for-8 showing with runners in scoring position, and this might the strain that creates.

Try this for Wednesday’s game and the weekend series against Tampa Bay. If the lineup doesn’t get going, go back to the drawing board.    

2. While everyone expects the Cubs to use the No. 2 overall pick in the draft on a college pitcher – at this point, most likely Stanford’s Mark Appel or Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray – there is a hitter that they are studying closely. He’s University of San Diego third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, who already has set a school single-season record with 20 home runs in 40 games. Bryant, a right-handed hitter, has a slash line of .350/.526/.879, with almost twice as many walks (50) as strikeouts (27). The Astros have Bryant on their short list for the first overall pick, which could leave the Cubs with their choice of Gray or Appel. The draft is still six weeks away but it looks like these are the three guys to watch most closely, with high school studs like Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows.

3. Would Ozzie Guillen have bitten his tongue if he was managing the Marlins on Tuesday? After an early postponement Monday, manager Mike Redmond and his staff made their plans for a Tuesday split doubleheader, listing veteran Ricky Nolasco to start the day game and 20-year-old rookie Jose Fernandez to start the night game. But according to Bert Blyleven, who was working the game for Twins television, the Marlins’ ownership – that is, Jeffrey Loria – butted in Tuesday morning to order that Fernandez pitch the first game. Redmond obediently dove on the grenade, telling reporters that he and his coaches changed their mind “when we saw the sun shining" in the morning, deciding that they wanted to use Fernandez when it was warmer. But people around the team say that Redmond, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and Nolasco all were ticked at the late change. Guillen, who will be paid for the next three years not to go through that aggravation, must have gotten a chuckle.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers