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."