Jose Abreu is back in action, and not a moment too soon. The weather’s warming up and so are the races, and with the White Sox previously getting back Chris Sale to lead the rotation and Adam Eaton to lead off, now is their chance to move above .500. Most of all, with all of that talent -- Abreu first and foremost -- they’re fun to watch again every day of the week, not just when it is Sale’s turn in the rotation.
That said, seeing Abreu homer in his return from the DL was great, not just for Sox fans, but for anybody excited about baseball. Not that anyone was worried Abreu would turn into a pumpkin like he was a latter-day Chris Shelton, if you remember the Tigers first baseman who busted out for 16 first-half homers in 2006 … and then didn’t hit another for the rest of the year. But you wanted to see Abreu come back and not miss a beat after he ripped 15 homers in six weeks. So homering off Clayton Kershaw? That’ll do. Oh yes, that’ll do.
As ever, there have been some performance-minded concerns about Abreu's strikeouts because he has been striking more than 26 percent of the time, among the top 10 most whiffable regular batters in the league. And he doesn't walk much, just shy of having one of the 10 lowest walk rates in the AL. And those are points well taken -- and perhaps better taken if and when he stops slugging .600 and taking some of the game's best pitchers for a ride. Can we not look a gift horse in the mouth? If you want to quibble about how he manages his at-bats or whether he should shorten up at times, in fairness, he has plated 24 percent of his baserunners, and the only guys in the American League doing better are named Miguel Cabrera (with an incredible 31 percent) and Robinson Cano (25 percent).
At this point, though, I frankly wouldn't get too hung up on any of the specifics about the numbers, because let's face it: There just aren't a lot of them, talking about a guy with less than two months of at-bats. Better we enjoy the talent that they're beginning to describe, and suggest what he's capable of. He already has homered off Kershaw and Justin Verlander and David Price. We'll see how many more active Cy Young winners he goes yard against before the season's done. Later, when we've seen a lot more of Abreu, maybe then we can start having meaningful hair-splitting conversations about what he is and what he isn't. But in the meantime, I'm down for just watching and enjoying him do this as many times as he can.
As far as the outcome in his return, well, that's less happy. It certainly didn't help when the White Sox infield started playing kick ball in the seventh inning to put the Dodgers on the board, but two runs against Clayton Kershaw is simultaneously a moral victory and not enough to bank on beating one of the game's best.
Just seeing Abreu back on the field provided a ready reminder that the White Sox have a chance to play meaningful baseball this season, and already are. You can say that about everyone in the AL, as long as nobody in the wild-card race gets much beyond .500. But with Abreu back, they are Chicago's contender, the team you want to watch, armed with Cuba's latest gift to the game stateside. Why worry? Wherever he takes us, just enjoy the ride.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.