Chicago White Sox: Hitting

Sox nemesis Chen cut loose by K.C.

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
7:43
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- There just weren’t enough Chicago White Sox lineups out there to keep pitcher Bruce Chen employed, as the left-hander was designated for assignment Friday by the Kansas City Royals.

Chen's mastery of the White Sox surfaced primarily over the past few years with the Royals. The soft-tossing 37-year-old has tied the White Sox in knots start after start.

Chen has an 8-5 career record against the White Sox with a 3.40 ERA over 129 2/3 innings. The only American League teams against which he has a lower ERA are the Astros (2.72), Royals (3.14) and Blue Jays (2.97); most of his innings against the Astros came when they were in the National League, and he has only two starts against the Royals.

Chen is a combined 8-2 against the White Sox over the past four seasons in 14 starts. Only once in those four seasons did he have an ERA over 3.12 against Chicago. He was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts against the Sox this year.

Paul Konerko has five career home runs against Chen, but even he has been reduced to a .222 (12-for-54) batting average against the lefty, while Alejandro De Aza is 4-for-18 (.222), Adam Eaton is 1-for-6 (.167), Tyler Flowers is 1-for-12 (.083) and Conor Gillaspie is 1-for-9 (.111).

Garcia's stumbles not unexpected

August, 29, 2014
Aug 29
6:55
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – The best part about Avisail Garcia's earlier-than-expected return to the Chicago White Sox is he can work off the rust now instead of perhaps next April, when the 2015 season begins.

The outfielder hasn’t looked like his former self since his return from shoulder surgery. It’s not anything the White Sox didn’t expect, however, as Garcia is just 8-for-40 (.200) with two home runs and nine RBIs in the 11 games of his return. He has a .425 slugging percentage since he came back.

“I think he’s been all right,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “You are taking a guy that hasn’t seen a lot of action. You just watch it. I think there’s still some development in there that’s going on.”

[+] EnlargeAvisail Garcia
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Sox didn't expect Avisail Garcia back this season, and he's struggled at the plate since his return.
Garcia had the labrum in his left shoulder repaired in April after he fell awkwardly while making a diving catch in a game. He was supposed to be out until spring training of next year but healed quickly.

Another right-handed slugger who underwent a surgical repair of the labrum in his left shoulder was the Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp. After surgery in October 2012, he returned to start the 2013 season but batted just .251 over the first two months, with a .335 slugging percentage and just two home runs.

The Garcia and Kemp surgeries weren’t completely identical, but a labrum repair was the central theme of both.

Only this season has Kemp started to look like the player he was before the shoulder injury, so it's possible Garcia's adjustment period extends into next season.

“Any time a guy has that long a stretch of being on the [disabled list], then you come back, he’ll get a shot of adrenaline right when he gets out there, and then this is the tough part for him,” Ventura said. “He has to go through this part, and then once he settles in, you’ll see a better idea of what you are going to get in the future.”

Despite not playing together for most of the season, Garcia and Jose Abreu have been able to forge a bond. The duo is still expected to comprise the core at the heart of the order for a long time.

“I think it’s been great to be able to spend time with him, and one thing I can tell you [is] he’s a great person,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “As a player, we’ve talked about being a five-tool player. Right now he’s going through some tough patches, but he’s a guy that will be able to get it done.”

The numbers show that while four-seam fastballs have given Garcia particular trouble since his return, he has struggled against offspeed pitches as well, though he has seen far fewer of them. The combination suggests timing issues not uncommon for a hitter who has missed a significant amount of time.

“We talked a few days ago about the importance of being mentally tough and being able to handle these times,” Abreu said. “I have nothing but good things to say about him.”

No way around it: Abreu is tough

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
11:34
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Pitching to Jose Abreu has been a difficult chore all season. Now add pitching around Abreu to the list of dangers when facing the rookie slugger.

Abreu had a pair of RBI singles for the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, including the go-ahead RBI hit to center field in the seventh inning when the Cleveland Indians clearly looked to be avoiding the strike zone. Teams seem to have run out of options when it comes to containing a .312 hitter with 96 RBIs, all before the start of September.

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
Brian Kersey/Getty Images"I was aggressive as I could be," Jose Abreu said through an interpreter of his game-winning RBI in the seventh.
Abreu had a nearly identical RBI on a single up the middle in the third inning, driving in both runs off Indians starter Corey Kluber.

“He didn't throw too much good stuff but I wanted to bring the guy in from third base so I was aggressive as I could be,” Abreu said through an interpreter about his seventh-inning RBI that put the White Sox ahead for good in their 3-2 victory that snapped a seven-game losing streak. “He left a pitch there and I was able to connect and get the ball through the middle.”

In the third inning, the Indians took their chances with Abreu as Adam Eaton stood on third base with two outs. Not only did Abreu hit his RBI single, but Adam Dunn followed with an RBI double.

In the seventh inning, the White Sox had Eaton on third base and Alexei Ramirez on first with one out in a tie game. Kluber didn’t want much to do with Abreu in that situation, but still got burned on a pitch that appeared to be off the plate.

“Well I think second and third you are probably questioning that, but first and third [is different] I think, especially the way Kluber has been pitching,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He had a good at-bat early in the game and then he had one where Kluber really threw some tough pitches to him. His ball moves all over the place.”

Add Wednesday’s game to the impressive moments that Abreu has been able to deliver all season. He is now hitting .500 (12-for-24) during a seven-game hitting streak and is batting .422 while collecting a hit in 11 of his past 12 games.

“He’s amazing, isn’t he?” Eaton said. “Great player, rises to the occasion like he has all year. What does he have 96 RBI? It’s unreal. He’s a great player and he makes it easier on me. If I can get on base, hopefully I’ll score a run. Hopefully we’ll continue the trend.”

As Abreu clearly heads toward an American League rookie of the year award, he has managed to stay productive even as his power game as waned. He has just two home runs since the start of August, but his slugging percentage continues to lead baseball at .602.

“He has the power there, but I think you are always going to have to do the other stuff,” Ventura said. “Power will always be there for him because he’s that strong. If the only thing he did was hit homers, he wouldn’t be in the situation he is in. He’s driving in a lot of tough runs for us, not only with the home runs but with base hits in big situations.”

Even with all the personal success it has always been about the team for Abreu, and after his clutch night Wednesday it wasn’t any different.

“I'm very happy because we just came out of a bad stretch there,” he said. “I was concentrating since yesterday on this pitcher because I knew he was going be tough. I dedicated a lot of time to preparing against him and was glad we got that win today.”

Abreu admitted that he is no stranger to long losing streaks, going on some during his 10 years of playing professionally in Cuba.

“Many times seven games and at one point 11,” he said. “But as tough as the moment is, we're still going to face the adversity. The easy times, everybody wants them. The tough times really let you know who you are as a player and a team.”

His ability to be both a power hitter and somebody who can collect base hits to all fields should help the White Sox avoid long losing streaks in the future, especially if the team revamps the pitching staff like it hopes to this offseason.

“My dad always said most good hitters are line drive hitters, they just happen to go out; they hit them really hard they happen to go out and I think Jose is one of those,” Eaton said. “He sprays the ball all over the field. He reminds me of when I played with Paul Goldschmidt [in Arizona]. He’s very disciplined at the plate, knows what he’s doing, can hit to all fields with power and I’m lucky to be his teammate.”

As season fades, Sox reunite offensive trio

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
11:30
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- The tag-team trio that was supposed to lead the Chicago White Sox's offense into the future was finally reunited Tuesday night.

Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu played in a White Sox lineup for just the ninth time this season and the first time since April 9 at Colorado, way back during the second week of the regular season.

That was the game when Avisail Garcia injured his shoulder, of course, and he originally underwent surgery that was expected to cost him the season. Credited with being a fast healer, Garcia was able to return to the White Sox on Aug. 16, but as fate would have it, Eaton was out with an oblique injury.

[+] EnlargeAvisail Garcia
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesInjuries have limited Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu to just nine games together.
The band was finally back together Tuesday giving the White Sox another look at the three central figures of their roster rebuild that started at last year’s trade deadline. The White Sox still dropped their seventh consecutive game Tuesday, but in an 8-6 defeat to the Cleveland Indians, they scored their most runs since a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Aug. 17.

The White Sox look out of gas with a little more than a month to play, but the hope is that the Garcia, Eaton, Abreu trio will spark a late-season offensive push and provide some optimism leading into the winter.

In constructing the White Sox’s triple-threat offensive core, Garcia was added first on the day before the 2013 trade deadline when he was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in the deal that sent Jake Peavy to the Boston Red Sox.

Abreu was a six-year, $68 million free-agent signing this winter, and Eaton was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the three-team December deal that sent pitcher Hector Santiago to the Los Angeles Angels.

“Yeah, I didn’t really notice that, but that’s right,” Eaton said about his second chance to play with a pair of heralded teammates again. “It’s going to be good. Spring training is where we got some lengthy time together. Hopefully fans will want to see us all play together [again], so it will be very exciting.”

Exciting isn’t precisely what the White Sox are looking for. If exciting is the byproduct of being productive, the club will take it. Eaton and Abreu have been able to show their value this season, and Garcia seems to have picked up where he left off when he batted a team-leading .304 from Aug. 9 last year until the end of the season.

In the eight games since he has returned, Garcia was batting just .214 before Tuesday, but his slugging percentage was .500, with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs. Perhaps Eaton’s return agrees with Garcia, who had a two-run double among his two hits Tuesday.

“I think Avisail Garcia is one of the more interesting young players in the league,” Indians manager Terry Francona said at the start of the current three-game series. “When they got him, I remember thinking, ‘Boy, that’s a hell of a [player],’ because he’s a really interesting young player. I mean, he runs so much better than people think he can, and there’s power in that bat and he can play all the outfield positions.

“He’s got a chance to be a really good player. And from our side of it, I guess we hope he’s not really ready to be hot and help them. And Eaton gives them kind of that spark at the top of the order. And then Abreu, being that like monster bat in the middle, man they’ve really helped their lineup a lot.

In fact, each member of the White Sox’s three-man offensive core had a hit Tuesday with Abreu picking up a hit and two walks, while Eaton had an RBI single in the fifth inning.

“It is nice,” manager Robin Ventura said of Eaton’s return from the DL. “I think any time you need a shot in the arm, it’s nice to have a guy that was in the middle of it when he was playing. I think any time you get back to some sort of normalness it’s nice, but you’re looking at a time when we haven’t really had him and Avi together very much, so it will hopefully be nice to watch.”

The White Sox’s offense had been stuck in the mud without Eaton. It scored three runs or less in 14 of its last 17 games before Tuesday, and the club went 4-9 without its leadoff man. Eaton was hitting .435 (37-for-85) in his last 22 games before he was injured.

With another offseason approaching and the White Sox still in roster-rebuild mode, the front office wants to use the impact acquisitions from last winter as a guide when moving into the colder months this year.

“That's absolutely our intent,” Hahn said of making more impact moves this offseason. “We obviously can't guarantee we're going to be able to make 'X' number of moves, and we're going to be able to hit on as high as percentage of our targets as we did last year, but it's certainly our goal to address ideally all of what we feel are our needs, before they shift, as quickly as possible.

“It has never been about, 'Hey, we got two things done, so we're good.' The fact of the matter is we didn't get everything done last offseason as we wanted to do, and we look forward to the chance coming up in the coming weeks, where we're able to get a little more aggressive in pursuing some answers out there.”

Abreu pleased with direction of offense

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
7:36
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – As the losses mount, the Chicago White Sox still have a chance to accomplish some impressive feats, especially on offense.

As expected, if it has to do with the offense, then Jose Abreu must be involved. Abreu’s .308 batting average at the start of play Tuesday was eighth in the American League and just three points behind fifth place Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians.

Right behind Abreu in ninth place was Adam Eaton, who was batting .304. Eaton returned to the White Sox lineup Tuesday night after missing the last two-plus weeks while on the disabled list because of a strained right oblique.

Rounding out the top 10 of the American League batting chase was Conor Gillaspie, who was at .303.

“Definitely I’m very happy about that and I think it is a good sign the team is headed in the right direction,” Abreu said through an interpreter Tuesday. “I am proud of the individual accomplishments that I have been able to get, but I am not very happy with where we are at as a team, so we will have to work on that.”

The Detroit Tigers were the only other AL team with more than one player in the top 10 batting leaders. Victor Martinez was second at .328, while Miguel Cabrera was seventh at .308.

“It’s a sign in the right direction from where we were last year,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We have Jose in the middle of it. There were signs of turning it around. Alexei (Ramirez’s) year has been pretty nice, too. Eaton and Abreu, it helps offensively of what you’re going through from what we had last year, you feel like you’re able to score some runs.”

According to STATS LLC, the last time the White Sox had two players who finished in the top 10 in batting average was in 1993 when Frank Thomas was sixth with a .317 mark and Lance Johnson was 10th at .311.

The last time the White Sox had three or more players in the top 10 was in 1960 when Al Smith was second with a .315 average, Minnie Minoso was third at .311, Roy Sievers was sixth at .295 and Nellie Fox was ninth at .289.

Flowers' hot streak comes into focus

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
10:52
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- There are rules to Tyler Flowers' hot streak on offense and, as expected, they mostly involve his new glasses.

Rule No. 1: Don't call the Chicago White Sox catcher's hot bat a result of the sport goggles he has been wearing since ... well, since around the time his hot streak started.

[+] EnlargeTyler Flowers
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesThe newly bespectacled Tyler Flowers is batting .458 with a 1.322 OPS over his past 15 games.
Rule No. 2: Despite saying the eyeware has nothing to do with his recent production, Flowers isn't planning to go back to contact lenses anytime soon, yet this shouldn't be called a superstition under any circumstances.

The rules are understandable, especially Rule No. 1. Flowers has put in some hard work and taken some unprecedented steps, at least for him, in order to get him back on track. Calling the success the result of a pair of spectacles would diminish that work.

Without anybody mentioning a pair of lenses and some frames, Flowers was asked what his secret has been.

"I guess the glasses, right? That's what everyone's saying," he said in jest.

If not, then what?

"I'm just trying to keep working," Flowers said. "I started doing a couple things a little bit different that I hadn't really done before and I looked at other good hitters around the league and they all seem to do it.

"I started working on that and kind of good things have happened since I started working on that and a good feel has been there most days since that, although (Monday) I actually felt terrible. Who knows what happens? Baseball's a funny game. I felt awful and had a really good game."

On Monday, Flowers had a home run, a triple and a two-run single in the sixth inning that put the White Sox in the lead and ended up being the game-winning hit when the game was called a half inning later because of rain.

Since the game before the All-Star break, Flowers is batting .458, with a mind-boggling 1.322 OPS over a stretch of 15 contests (48 at-bats). His batting average has gone from .213 to .252 over that stretch, his on-base percentage has gone from .270 to .309 and his slugging percentage has risen from .296 to .379.

So what are those things that other hitters do that he has finally adapted to his own game?

"I'm trying to be downhill a little more," Flowers said. "I'm trying to make a positive move toward the pitcher with the stride. I have a tendency to kind of want to stay back and that tends to make me collapse a little bit more on the back side.

"When it's there it's pretty good and when it's not, it's not very good. It's still something I'm working on and the majority of good hitters out there do that and I realized I hadn't been doing for a while now. I'm still trying to get comfortable with it."

And how much credit goes to the glasses?

"Zilch," he said. "I don't even notice them. I'm not an idiot -- I'm going to keep wearing them. I'm doing well, so I'm going to stick with them."

That sort of sounds like a superstition.

"I don't like the word superstition," he said. "I wear contacts usually so I'm not going to give myself an excuse one day of not wearing contacts or glasses and having a bad day and blaming it on something. I'm going to listen to the doctors and wear one or the other, but I don't think it's relevant to success or failure."

Impressive Abreu still trending upward

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
7:05
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jose AbreuScott W. Grau/Icon SMIJose Abreu is the only player to win AL player and rookie of the month in the same month twice.

CHICAGO -- For those still holding out, believing it’s not practical to predict greatness for a player with only four months of major league experience, it is time to give in to the reality.

Barring injury, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has a chance to put together some offensive seasons rarely seen at this level. If he fails to at least finish as the runner-up in the MVP voting at some point in his career, it would be a shock. Heck, if he doesn’t win an MVP award, there are many who would be surprised.

Abreu was given the rare monthly double on Monday when he was named the American League player of the month as well as the rookie of the month for July.

The rookie of the month award has been in existence only since 2001, but since then, Abreu is the only player ever to win both honors in a calendar month two separate times. He also was player of the month and rookie of the month in April.

It is the third time Abreu has been named rookie of the month, the fourth time a player has won that many honors in a season. Ichiro Suzuki won it four times in 2001, Jason Bay won it three times in 2004 and Mike Trout won it four times in 2012.

Suzuki is essentially a lock for enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Trout is young (he turns 23 this week) but certainly pointed in the direction of Cooperstown, and while Bay might not ever make it to induction weekend, he was still a three-time All-Star who finished in the top 12 of MVP voting twice, not to mention his rookie of the year award.

As for White Sox players who have matched Abreu’s two player of the month awards, it has only happened three other times in team history. The player of the month award has a little more history to it, having been in existence in the National League since 1958 and the American League since 1974.

Frank Thomas won two player of the month awards twice (1994 and 1996), while Albert Belle won two during the 1998 season. Both of those sluggers were known for some eye-popping production during their careers.

While the debate really isn’t whether or not Abreu will have a productive career, it now seems to be all about how good he can really become. Abreu admits that he is still in the process of getting comfortable in a new league after playing in Cuba the previous 10 years.

“Yes, every day I feel more comfortable,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “And I’m able to concentrate a lot better, which allows to continue to compete for the team, which is what we’re here for.”

Imagine what will happen two or three years down the road when Abreu grows more accustomed to American League pitchers and opposing ballparks. What kind of player will we be in store for then?

“You can get better, but I don’t think he’s going to be where he will hit .500,” manager Robin Ventura said. “His numbers are pretty damn good right now. The consistency of going through the year, he might not have a stretch where he struggles quite as much.

“There is a limit of what guys are going to hit, statistically. But within the game of driving in runs and things like that, he’s pretty good and he’s going to continue to get better in that in-game stuff. That’s just part of being in the big leagues for the experience of it.”

Among the many rave reviews Abreu has received, one has been his ability to overcome adjustments pitchers make against him. Amazingly, the rookie said he hasn’t even noticed.

“I really don’t know the adjustments that they made on me, I just know that I concentrate on myself,” he said. “I concentrate on my strength when I go there. I’m sure they’re making adjustments and things like that but I try to stay with what I do well.”

Conor Gillaspie set to join list of leaders

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
8:35
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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DETROIT -- If the planets, suns and moons all align just right for the Chicago White Sox, there is the potential they could end the year with a Cy Young Award, a rookie of the year honor, an MVP and a batting title in one incredible haul of hardware.

The odds are certainly long, but they aren’t lottery-like, either.

Chris Sale is in the Cy Young mix, while Jose Abreu appears to have the rookie award in hand, while also taking aim at the MVP.

[+] EnlargeConor Gillaspie
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsAmong the individual trophies the White Sox might garner this season, a batting title is a possibility for Conor Gillaspie.
Meanwhile, the batting title gets a little tricky.

The White Sox don't have anybody among the batting leaders at the present time, but that could change in the next day or two. Conor Gillaspie entered Wednesday’s game at the Detroit Tigers with a .327 batting average and needing five at-bats Wednesday, or eight at-bats by the end of Thursday’s play, to qualify in the batting race.

Players need 3.1 at-bats for each of their team’s games played to qualify.

There has been little national acclaim for the season Gillaspie is having, possibly because he plays at third base, a position usually relied on to deliver power production. Gillaspie has just four home runs and didn’t hit his first until July 1, although he did have three in consecutive games July 8-10.

There is also the idea that on-base percentage and OPS are a better way to gauge a player’s offense, although a batting title remains a prestigious honor among the players.

"The numbers are great, but I would rather just do things the right way and whatever that ends up leading me to, it is what it is," Gillaspie said. "As far as a quiet season, anything is pretty quiet when you have a couple of guys on our team that are hitting the way they are hitting. That’s all relevant. It doesn’t change how much emphasis I put on trying to have quality at-bats. That’s what I’m going to keep doing until I’m done playing."

Gillaspie gives new White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson a lot of the credit for taking him from a rookie prone to struggles last year to a hitter who has settled into his own in his second campaign.

"I’ve related well to a lot of things he’s said and a lot of things he’s told me that make sense to me," Gillaspie said.

If Gillaspie had qualified to be listed among the batting leaders before Wednesday’s game, he would have been tied for second with the Seattle Mariners' Robinson Cano. The Houston Astros' Jose Altuve led the American League with a .343 mark.

Yet even if his name does start to appear atop the batting list by the end of the week, Gillaspie won’t put too much thought into it.

"The problem with that is the more you place emphasis on that, the more you see yourself in whatever newspapers or leaderboards," he said. "For me, the more I look into that, the more disappointed it gets when you don’t do well.

"The biggest thing is to stay the course, focus on things you can control and at the end of the year, wherever that is, it would be a good feeling to know you made adjustments and learned over the course of a year. I’ve just been trying to control other factors that can cause you to have bad at-bats."

Abreu stays steady in topsy-turvy season

July, 20, 2014
Jul 20
8:02
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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AbreuMatt Marton/USA TODAY SportsWith two more Sunday, White Sox rookie Jose Abreu has hit in 29 of his past 30 games.

CHICAGO – While a peaks-and-valleys season continued Sunday for the Chicago White Sox in an 11-7 defeat to the Houston Astros, Jose Abreu continued to ride high.

The rookie had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, while also continuing a run in which he has a hit in 29 of his past 30 games.

The last time Abreu didn’t record a hit was July 5 at home against the Seattle Mariners, unless somebody wants to count his 0-for-1 performance at the All-Star Game on Tuesday, when he played in the actual contest but declined an appearance in the Home Run Derby in order to maintain his level swing.

And the line drives keep coming hard and fast off Abreu’s bat, although he hasn’t hit a home run since before the break.

“Everybody has their own opinion on the home-run contest, so him not doing it is a personal decision,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Some guys do it and it doesn’t affect them at all, and he felt that it was going to take away from what he is doing here and it’s a mature response. There are other guys who did the same thing as well.”

Abreu prefers to keep things as far from complicated as possible. It’s all about the line drives, since he knows the pitches he gets his bat under ever so slightly have a good chance of leaving the park. He isn’t even worried about facing one new pitcher after another in his first tour of duty in the American League.

Abreu was asked if getting to know pitchers is helping him during his recent run of success.

“I really don’t know that,” he said through an interpreter. “I know that I do observe and I do watch a lot, but that’s about it. I don’t know whether that’s helping me or not. I just am totally concentrated on staying healthy physically and staying consistent with my work and routines so I can help the team continue to win.”

Adam Eaton has watched it all first-hand, often on base when Abreu delivers. Eaton is in the same position as Abreu when it comes to learning new pitchers in a new league, yet the leadoff man remains impressed with how his teammate has gone about things.

“He's a great player and I'm not surprised,” Eaton said. “He's battled some injuries early, I think that's what kind of prevented him [from hitting .300 so far].”

Abreu has shown the power and the run production, and if a .300 batting average is the final frontier, he’s approaching it quickly. His 2-for-5 Sunday got his average up to .293, up from .260 on June 14, which was the day before his 29-hits-in-30-games run started.

“It's funny, I talked to [White Sox manager of cultural development Lino Diaz] about it, and Lino has no doubts about it, [Abreu] will hit .300 in this league, and I don't think any of us do, either," Eaton said. "You throw him inside, he gets the barrel to it, he just hits it, flays it to right and then he does get the barrel to it and it goes 450 feet. He's a great hitter and I'm very blessed to be in front of him.”

Abreu is on pace to hit 47 home runs with 121 RBIs, and if he can also start to move his batting average past the .315 mark, those numbers -- plus an OPS of .963 that could rise, too -- will go down as one of the greatest rookie seasons in major league history.

He already has an 18-game hitting streak in the books in addition to his current 11-game run.

“It doesn’t surprise any of us that he has numbers like that,” Ventura said. “He just continues to play and he’s not worried about numbers and things like that. At the end of the year he’s probably going to look at them and see what it is, but he prepares every day and how he goes about his work is the most impressive part.”

Had Abreu signed elsewhere, maybe those numbers are directing a team toward a playoff berth, but in another impressive sign of maturity, he said isn’t concerned with what-ifs.

“No, I really don’t think about that,” he said. “My thoughts and everything is based on the White Sox. That’s the team that signed me, that’s the team I play for every day and that’s the only thing I think about.”

More lessons ahead for Abreu

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
7:12
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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Jose AbreuAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastNeither Jose Abreu nor manager Robin Ventura seem concerned about the rookie wearing down.

CHICAGO – The learning never stops for Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu, and one of his bigger tests is fast approaching.

As a member of the Cienfeugos team in Cuba’s Serie Nacional for 10 years, Abreu played in regular seasons that consisted of 90 games. On Saturday night, Abreu entered his 84th game (he lost 14 earlier this season to an ankle injury).

That means a season in Cuba would essentially be over at this point. But the hard-working Abreu still has another 64 games on the White Sox schedule, and the hottest part of the summer hasn’t even arrived yet.

To his credit, Abreu said he isn’t concerned about the marathon schedule.

“I don’t really think it’s going to affect [me],” the 27-year-old said through an interpreter. “We’ve just got to continue to work hard and stay mentally tough and continue to be a good person so you can get the results that you want at the end of the season. But I don’t think the length is going to affect my performance or anything like that.”

Manager Robin Ventura is aware of the situation but isn’t too concerned just yet.

“I think right now he's so excited with the way things are going, [and] that can carry a lot of guys through that period, but again, you don't know until he gets there and you see it," Ventura said. "There will be days when he can [play designated hitter], so you take care of him and give him maybe a day here or there where you can do that. You're watching everybody for that same thing. Everybody has their limit.”

There doesn’t seem to be any slowing down at this point. Abreu entered the day with the major league lead in home runs, at 29, and had a hit in 27 of his previous 28 games.

Abreu has only played in the majors for three and a half months, but one White Sox veteran has no problem putting the rookie in the class of great players.

“I think the more he gets comfortable, there is reason to believe he will do even better,” captain Paul Konerko said. “I think the more he faces guys, the strikeouts will go down, there will probably be more balls in play [and] he will probably take more walks, and that usually leads to a higher average, more hits, more runs driven in -- that kind of stuff.”

Konerko said Abreu has the rare gift of being able to get to pitchers the more he sees them, instead of the league catching up to him the more he is scouted and the more tape there is on him.

“The more he sees, the better he’s going to get," Konerko said. "But you don’t want to hang on a guy -- if he goes out and drives in 120 runs and hits 40 homers and hits .300 -- that, ‘OK, he should do better next year and even better the next year.' At some point, good is good, and you’ll just take the same thing or something close to it every year. But I wouldn’t expect him to go backward any.”

The learning never stops. And what struck Abreu most at this week’s All-Star Game?

“First of all, it was very normal," he said. "It was nothing out of the ordinary. The one thing that comes to mind was how good of people some of those guys are; people first, before the player. That was something that caught my eye."

Abreu remains undecided on HR Derby

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
9:19
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO – Chicago White Sox rookie slugger Jose Abreu said Sunday he remains undecided on whether to participate in the Home Run Derby, to be held July 14, the day before the All-Star Game, at Target Field in Minneapolis.

Abreu was also named to the American League All-Star team Sunday and said he was at a loss for words over the honor. He is far less enamored with the prospect of participating in a home run contest.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The one thing I am thinking about is we have seven games to play before the All-Star break and helping the White Sox win and do whatever I can do to help this team win. As far as that, I haven’t thought about it. I can’t see myself thinking about it immediately, but I’ll get there when I get there.”

He won’t be allowed to sit on it too long. The decision on Home Run Derby participants is reportedly due by Tuesday.

Abreu is tied with the Baltimore Orioles' Nelson Cruz for the major league lead in home runs with 27. Abreu has said that participating in the contest has the potential to alter his mechanics at the plate. He said he was a contestant in multiple home run contests in his native Cuba and never won one.

Teammate Chris Sale already knows what decision he hopes Abreu makes.

“I'd really like to see Jose hit in that Home Run Derby, probably just as bad as you guys,” said the White Sox ace, who is in a five-man vote for the final AL All-Star spot.

Pujols to Abreu: Don't change a thing

July, 2, 2014
Jul 2
7:19
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Comparing Jose Abreu to Albert Pujols is a slippery slope, since the latter has delivered results for more than a decade while the former is just three months into a promising career.

There is little denying, however, that Abreu enjoys similarities to Pujols, and the comparisons have grown with Abreu’s White Sox and Pujols’ Angels facing off this week in Chicago.

[+] EnlargeAlbert Pujols
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports"Why change something that's working?" Albert Pujols said about Jose Abreu's efforts on the field. "I'm pretty sure he's a hard worker and dedicated and doesn't take anything for granted."
Pujols seemed to know what the White Sox had in Abreu way back in spring training, which is why he felt obliged to offer baseball’s newest power phenom a little advice.

"He has the ability and the talent to do it," Pujols said. "This game is about making adjustments. It's the same game you play in your backyard. It’s the same game you play in Little League. It’s the same game you play in the minor leagues, Triple-A, and then you get into the big leagues.

"It’s about being smart and making adjustments. That’s one of the things I told him back in spring training: That it’s no different than the game he played back in Cuba."

Abreu speaks of Pujols in reverent tones and has already expressed gratitude for the advice he received in Arizona.

Abreu has taken it from there, delivering one of the best starts to a career in major league history. His 26 home runs were the most in major league history form a player in his first 71 games, and his 67 RBIs were tied for sixth most with Wally Berger (1930) and Joe DiMaggio (1936).

But with Abreu, success never seems to be about him. He consistently mentions his faith and puts team results above all else. Yet there seems to be somebody else who inspires him to be the best baseball player and person he can be.

"Every time I hit a home run, I enjoy it, and more so because there's one person that really enjoys when I hit them, and that's my mother," Abreu said. "Every time I hit one, I know that she's happy."

Pujols has also provided inspiration. Comparing the two hitters might not be fair at this point, but it's so hard to avoid it.

"It's unfair, but it's fun," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I think that's what baseball's all about: comparing people. I think that happens all the time. Is it fair to put him in there? Probably not. That's a lot of expectations to put on him. But it's fun.

"You look at guys, you see the kind of year Jose's having, and people naturally would compare those two together. But the numbers Albert's put up have been crazy in itself. You'd like Jose to look to follow along that path if it's possible."

Pujols is definitely impressed with what he’s seeing, especially after Abreu hit a home run on a line to right field in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader.

"He obviously has [a] real nice, short, compact swing," Pujols said. "He’s obviously strong enough that he can use the entire field. He doesn’t have to be a pull-happy guy.

"Look at that ball he hit yesterday. I mean, there aren’t too many guys who can hit a ball out of the ballpark like that down the right-field line."

Pujols seems to think Abreu can be as good as he wants to be.

"It’s up to him," Pujols said. "It’s going to be about the more he’s around the league, the more adjustment he’s going to have to make. The pitchers are going to adjust to that; but as a hitter, it’s our job to adjust, too.

"Myself, 14 years in the league and I still try to make adjustments every at-bat. You prepare yourself for a pitcher tonight, and sometimes, the approach is not the same you thought it would be, so you switch up during the game."

During the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Pujols reached first base and appeared to talk to Abreu the entire time, even though he had to turn his head to do it since Abreu wasn’t holding him on at the bag.

"He’s a real nice kid; I like him," Pujols said. "You don’t get much time on the base to talk. In Anaheim, I had a chance to talk to him for about 10 minutes. Just talking to him, catching up and seeing how he’s adjusting to everything.

"It’s tough, you know, not having his whole family here and coming to the States to play the game. It can be tough, but hopefully, he can continue to do it and stay healthy."

The hardest part seems to be everything off the field. On the field, it should be easy for Abreu, according to Pujols.

"He doesn’t have to change anything," Pujols said. "Why change something that’s working? He’s really humble. I’m pretty sure he’s a hard worker and dedicated and doesn’t take anything for granted."

Abreu proof you can't do it alone

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
11:39
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO – Jose Abreu simply is not able to do everything for the Chicago White Sox, although give the rookie credit for trying.

On his 26th home run of the season, tying him for the major league lead, Abreu gave the White Sox an early lead in Game 1 of a doubleheader Tuesday, only to see it slip away in an 8-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastIn a season full of inconsistencies, Jose Abreu has been the White Sox's most consistent performer.
In a season full of inconsistencies, Abreu has been the White Sox’s most consistent performer, and with a hit in Game 2 he extended his hitting streak to 16 games. But not even one of the best rookie seasons in major league history has been good enough to get the team over .500 through three months of the season.

The White Sox entered the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader with a 39-45 record. And even though his home run couldn’t lead to a victory in the opener, the White Sox are still 14-8 in games when he goes deep. (He has four multihomer games this year).

One man can’t do everything, though.

“It’s not leaning on him, he’s going to do that anyway,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You get to a point where he’s the only guy. Come back [in the second game] with better at-bats and get it done.”


The Angels know what they are up against with Abreu, and when the teams met in Southern California in early June, they held the White Sox slugger to one hit in 13 trips to the plate. But in one at-bat of the current series, Abreu tagged them with a three-run home run off of arguably the Angels’ best pitcher right now, Garrett Richards.

“We saw him in the spring, and there was no doubt in the spring the talent was real, the bat speed's there, the strength,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “And he's obviously turned it into a terrific first half, certainly with the power numbers and the production numbers. He's a force. There's no doubt about it.”

The way Scioscia see it, Abreu has some of the best power in the game, and that comes from a manager who has Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton at his disposal.

“Well, I think his power plays in the Grand Canyon,” Scioscia said. “He's got pretty good power.”

That kind of power can only get you so far, though. No major leaguer has ever hit 26 home runs in their first 70 games as Abreu has, but a winning club needs more pitching, defense and co-conspirators on offense.

It hasn’t seemed to discourage him, though, and Abreu might only be getting better.

“I think he’s starting to understand when people are going to pitch to him and when they’re going to pitch around him,” Ventura said. “I think early on he was swinging a lot, being very aggressive on situations where guys were going to pitch around him no matter who was batting behind him.

“He’s getting a lot better at just understanding that -– when to be aggressive, when not to. I think that’s been the learning curve for him, understanding that.”

Jose Abreu turns page with 20th home run

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
7:14
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Nothing gets you out of the doghouse faster than a two-run homer one at-bat after raising some eyebrows.

After Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura chided Jose Abreu late Tuesday night for not running on a dropped third strike, the rookie sensation clubbed a home run on his first at-bat Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants. The White Sox went on to a 7-6 victory.

Abreu’s first home run in a week made him the third-fastest player to reach 20 home runs in major league history. Only Wally Berger (1930) and Mark McGwire (1986-87) got there quicker.

“He wasn’t going to spend a whole lot of time [thinking] about it,” Ventura said. “That’s part of the game we can take care of real easy.”

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
David Banks/Getty Images

Only Wally Berger (51 games in 1930) and Mark McGwire (56 games, 1986-87) reached 20 career home runs quicker than White Sox rookie Jose Abreu did in his 58th game.

Before the game, Abreu was contrite, vowing to never let his oversight happen again. After striking out in the seventh inning Tuesday night, Abreu walked to the dugout instead of running to first base when the third strike got away.

“Those are things that I forget, I leave behind,” Abreu said through an interpreter after the game. “That just happened yesterday. I learned from it and I keep going. Those are the things that happen. Those are [challenges] in life. They happen, things like that happen, and you just found it in front of you, and you've just got to learn from it and keep going.”

One of Abreu’s better traits has been the ability to live in the present. He doesn’t seem to carry his issues from game to game, at-bat to at-bat or even pitch to pitch. He recovers and moves on, which seems to be key in avoiding prolonged slumps.

Abreu’s strength has been attacking pitches away, but on his home run Wednesday he was able to get his hands inside of a Tim Hudson offering and pulled it into the White Sox's bullpen in left field. It didn’t hurt that the pitch was a changeup.

When Abreu talks about his ability to cover so much of the plate, he does so matter-of-factly.

“No, I mean really that’s just things that happen,” he said. “I do my job every day, get ready to play. I prepare just as the pitchers are preparing. Scouting reports are what they are, but you still have to go out there and get it done. I just thank God that I have been able to do what I've done.”

(Read full post)

Slumping Flowers yields to Nieto

June, 15, 2014
Jun 15
2:26
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Tyler Flowers was given the day off Sunday in an effort to recharge his batteries and clear his mind.

The catcher has been in a massive dry spell, going hitless over his last 22 at-bats. Most alarming of all is that he has 18 strikeouts during the hitless stretch.

He has just three hits in his last 46 trips to the plate (.065) over his last 15 games, and his hot start, when he was batting as high as .388 with a .431 on-base percentage on April 25, is but a memory now.

Since May 25 alone, Flowers' batting average has plummeted from .312 to its current .250 mark and his OBP has gone from .370 to .313.

Backup catcher Adrian Nieto, one of the pleasant surprises on the 2014 club, was given the start at catcher Sunday.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.320 33 99 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 33
RBIJ. Abreu 99
RJ. Abreu 71
OPSJ. Abreu .983
WC. Sale 11
ERAC. Sale 2.11
SOC. Sale 178