CHICAGO -- The 2014 baseball season isn't even a week old -- not counting the Dodgers' and Diamondbacks' trek to Australia -- yet Jose Abreu's inclusion atop one American League statistical category is interesting.
Scoff if you'd like, but one AL manager has already afforded Abreu the respect given to seasoned veterans. Remember, Abreu is a rookie, who has never played outside of his native Cuba before joining the White Sox, and has never hit a home run in a major league or minor league regular-season game.
Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire decided to give Abreu both of his free passes in Wednesday's 11-inning game. His thinking was that he would rather face the strikeout-prone Adam Dunn with the game on the line than a rookie. And if that seems like a no-brainer, consider that both of those intentional walks came after Dunn had already hit a home run in Wednesday's game.
"Well, it's a lot of respect for having one game in the big leagues to be intentionally walked twice, but in that situation you can see why," manager Robin Ventura said. "They saw him the first day and they were impressed enough to take the bat out of his hands."
That first day was Opening Day when Abreu hit four line drives, one for a double to right field, one for an RBI single to left and two others that went for loud outs to center. He had a single to center field earlier in Wednesday's game.
Asked if he needed just one day to realize what Abreu was capable of doing, just like Gardenhire seemed to, Ventura danced around the question. He has been careful to not put lofty expectations on his new slugger and he wasn't about to start doing it now.
"You slow play it a little bit," Ventura said. "Don't put too much pressure on him. We know he's good, he knows he's good and again you let him show everybody. You just let his bat talk for him."