Adam Dunn loves Kosuke Fukudome’s gift

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Chicago White Sox’s Adam Dunn breaks his bat and hits a single in the first inning of an exhibition baseball game against the Houston Astros on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON – For Adam Dunn, nothing says game belt like “made in Japan.”

The White Sox designated hitter, who quickly took to new teammate Kosuke Fukudome this spring, also became enamored with some of the Japanese star’s belongings. Like his belt, which is made of different material than the standard team belt.

“Japan belts are always way cooler than our belts,” said Dunn, who hit his sixth home run of the spring in the Sox’ 5-1 victory Tuesday against the Houston Astros in an exhibition game at Minute Maid Park. “I saw he had one, and I was like, ‘Dude, that belt’s awesome.’ So he gave me one.

“I put it on, and I’m like, ‘This is not too awesome.’ But we’ll make it work.”

The 6-foot, 200-pound Fukudome ties the belt with the fourth notch. The 6-6, 285-pound Dunn has to muscle up to get the belt finger through the first one.

Which brings up the issue of Dunn’s fitness level and routines. He said he’s committed to a regular routine of pregame cardio work – and cardio during games. During his nightmarish 2011 season (.159, 11 home runs), fitness got away from Dunn as the season beat him down.

Dunn came to camp this year in good shape and talked of a different in-game DH routine this year – DHs have too much idle time on their hands not playing a position, as he found out during his first experience on the job last season – and he’s claiming the second notch on the belt is an attainable goal as the season goes on.

“Fukudome asked me if I wanted him to get me another belt,” Dunn said. “I said, ‘Nope, this is going to be my belt all year long.’ It’s going to fit, even if I have to suck in on it.”

Fukudome hit it off with Dunn right away. Dunn downloaded an app on his phone that converts his voice into Japanese so he can communicate. Before the intrasquad game between Team Dunn and Team Konerko, Dunn assigned Fukudome the responsibility of giving a pregame pep talk, Japanese-style. Nobody understood a word, but they reacted with huge cheers. And, for what it’s worth, Team Dunn went on to victory.

While Fukudome enjoys Dunn’s large clubhouse presence, he remains skeptical about the belt making it to the finish line.

“Too big,” he said.

Of greater importance to the Sox is whether Dunn can get back to the form that has produced 365 career home runs. After a Cactus League season in which he batted .255 with five homers and 14 RBI, Dunn has enjoyed a couple of days at his home in Houston, but Opening Day won’t come soon enough for him.

“Can’t wait for Friday,” he said.

While cautioning that he felt good going into the season a year ago, Dunn couldn’t argue that this spring could not have gone better.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said. “Believe it or not, though, this is exactly where I was last year. I felt good going into Opening Day. I was healthy. I felt good.

“This year I maintained it a little longer than I have in the past. I feel good. I feel kind of like every other spring.”

Dunn, who batted third Tuesday, walked 14 times and struck out 10. His on-base percentage was .415. He hit lefties and righties and homered to all parts of the park.

“Numbers-wise, it was probably my best spring ever,” he said. “But again, I don’t put too much stock into that. You can get a lot of hits in Arizona and a lot of home runs in Arizona that aren’t real-life hits and homers, so I don’t put a lot of stock in the numbers. But, as a whole, I like how I feel at the plate.”

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