Abreu still delivers without HRs

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
12:04
AM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- A night like Friday just might give Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu that second wind he is looking for.

Abreu hasn't hit a home run since July 29, but he gladly will take the three RBIs he delivered on two singles, all before the sixth inning of an eventual 11-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. Abreu finished the night with three hits, all singles.

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
David Banks/Getty ImagesJose Abreu's power numbers may have stalled recently, but he knocked in three more runs Friday in a win over the Blue Jays.
Even if Abreu didn't play another inning this season he essentially has the American League Rookie of the Year honor wrapped up. He not only entered play Friday tied for the major-league lead in home runs with 31, but his 86 RBIs were also tied for the lead and nobody had a better slugging percentage than his .600 mark.

Now 122 games into his first major-league season, Abreu acknowledged the physical toll the season has taken. He has also refused to give into the exhaustion.

"The reality is that it is a long season, but the reality too is that we have only a few games left," he said through an interpreter. "That's the way it is. But I am working daily to be able to combat being tired.

"I knew this. Many people mentioned this to me that it's going to be a long season. Fortunately, I've been taking care of myself physically to be able to stand up to this right now. And I continue to do it. Nothing is going to change. I'm going to continue to work until we get to the end of the season."

Instead of calling his power dip the result of tired muscles, Abreu prefers to look at it as a typical hiccup during a long season. He has only three extra-base hits, all doubles, since hitting his last home run.

"I see that as something normal, and to be honest with you, it's something that happened to me in Cuba," Abreu said. "There'd be a time where I would hit home runs a whole week, a whole bunch of home runs. There'd be a time when I would cool off a little bit. So I see it as something normal. It's nothing to be concerned with, and I know I'm going to come out of it."

While Mark McGwire's rookie record of 49 home runs in 1987 appears safe, there are other rookie long-ball milestones Abreu is chasing. Abreu's 31 home runs are the most by a rookie since 2007 when Ryan Braun hit 34 and Chris Young hit 32. And the White Sox rookie record for home runs is the 35 by Ron Kittle in 1983.

Manager Robin Ventura seems confident Abreu will be able to chase down those numbers.

"Yeah, he's gone through a stretch like that earlier and I think most people go through it," Ventura said. "Him not hitting a home run, there are other guys at the top [of the home-run list] that haven't hit homers in a while either. He's not alone by not hitting a homer for that time. Do I still think he's a good hitter? Yeah. I like him with where he's at, he's still going to bat third and I'm not worried about him."

So until he can get a pitch he can turn on, or drive the other way, Abreu will be content with his line drive, up-the-middle approach. All three of his singles Friday were to center field and his two-run hit in the first inning got the White Sox's offense going.

"The mentality hasn't changed, the approach hasn't changed, it's still the same," Abreu said. "Even though the results haven't been the way we wanted them to be the last, you know, five to seven games, the mentality, the approach, everything is still the same."

The hits didn't go deep, but that didn't mean Ventura wasn't impressed.

"They're done right," Ventura said. "You're looking at the professional side of his hitting. He does have all the power and I think everybody goes through a stretch where you don't quite have that feeling to hit homers but in the first inning, that's a big hit. To be able to do it like that, it's a good message throughout our lineup of how you're trying to attack somebody and stay through the middle.

"Don't try to do too much; don't be the hero. I think that kind of went throughout the lineup of guys just trying to do what they can. You don't have to try to hit it over the fence. Just put it in play and good things will happen."

Abreu has always said he was a hitter more than a power guy, and he certainly has delivered plenty of hits since his last home run. In fact, he is hitting well over .300 since that last long ball. That means concerns of a power drought are really nothing more than him setting the bar so high early in the season that anything less than eyebrow-raising production numbers sets off alarms.

In that sense, Abreu could brush off the expectation that others have put on him. The interesting thing is that he actually thrives on the challenge of trying to match those previous results.

"Those expectations are great; I want to have those," he said. "That's great to be able to do that. Every time you get out on the field, you want to be able to do that. It's not always going to happen, but that's what you want to shoot for all the time. To me, that's not any kind of [thing] I would feel bad about at all. To me, that kind of encourages me to go 115 percent, even more, every day to stay consistent."

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jose Abreu
BA HR RBI R
.317 36 107 80
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208