Jose Abreu has hard-working debut

"I want to be able to see a lot of pitches so I feel comfortable swinging the bat," Jose Abreu said. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

GLENDALE, Ariz. – After a lineout to left field and a groundout to second base in his first spring-training game with the Chicago White Sox on Friday, Jose Abreu's work day was far from done.

Abreu exited the contest and was already in the weight room as the Los Angeles Dodgers were finishing off a 5-0 victory over the White Sox.

The team’s new middle-of-the-order presence seemed genuinely confused as to why he was being requested for an interview since he felt he hadn't made any contributions to the team’s cause.

The fact is that Abreu, 27, will remain a popular interview subject well into the start of the regular season as the slugger tries to deliver on his potential after signing a six-year, $68 million contract this winter.

“In my case I just want to play every day,” Abreu said through interpreter Lino Diaz. “I want to get as much live pitching as I can so I can get back into it. Playing today felt really good. We’re going to get as many at-bats as we can so I’m ready for the season.”

Manager Robin Ventura had Abreu batting in the cleanup spot, ahead of another youngster with loads of potential, Avisail Garcia.

While so much has been made of Abreu’s power and his ability to spray the ball to all fields, the first thing he showed off in his first game was plate discipline. Abreu saw 11 pitches in his two at-bats, not a startling high number, but impressive for somebody who was probably anxious to prove his worth.

“I want to get a feel for the strike zone and I want to be able to see a lot of pitches so I feel comfortable swinging the bat,” Abreu said. “It might be my plan right now, but that’s something I’m doing to feel comfortable.”

The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder has been in the desert getting ready for nearly a month now, and he continues to insist there is plenty more work to be done.

“I don’t really have an exact amount of at-bats to be ready,” he said. “When the manager asks me to be out there, I want as many at-bats as I can prior to the season so I can be ready. It’s a matter of seeing the ball when you’re out there. I haven’t seen live pitching in a while.”

Fellow Cuban Yasiel Puig was not in the lineup for the Dodgers, but there was still a familiar face on the other side of the field, as Cuba native Alex Guerrero was starting at second base for Los Angeles.

“Yes, it is a great opportunity to play with a fellow Cuban on a different ground on a different place,” Abreu said. “Like I always said to all the Cuban players, you have to keep working hard so you have a chance to come in and play at this level.”

Players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo helped blaze a trail for Abreu, and now they are teammates helping him to adjust to his first year on a new club and in a new country.

“I’m thankful for both of them,” he said. “Every time I have a question, I feel I can ask a fellow teammate and countryman and I know they will give me an honest answer. Yes, they have been helpful.”