Thursday, April 10, 2014
Jose Abreu's stature growing quickly
By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- His manager calls him just plain good. His teammate says he will only get better.
The Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu has been the worst-kept secret in baseball and he just registered on a lot more radars around the league Thursday with a second multihomer game this week.
Jose Abreu has 14 RBIs in his first 10 games for the White Sox as he opens up eyes around the majors.
Only 10 games into his major league career, the Cuban-born slugger has sprayed the ball to all fields, showed stunning power with four home runs and has established himself as the face of his team's rebuilding project.
There were early whispers this winter that Abreu was a better hitter than some of the productive countrymen that preceded him recently such as Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, and from the first day of spring training he started to prove it.
But nothing makes it more legitimate than a .300 batting average, a .720 slugging percentage and 14 RBIs in his first 10 games, the most by a White Sox player in that span since Ron Kittle did the same in 1983.
"He's just really good. That's the simple fact, that he's a good hitter," said manager Robin Ventura, who joked that his work in the batting cage with Abreu has made all the difference.
"Going around the league I think you would give the advantage to the pitchers just because you haven't seen them. Eventually there's going to be some back and forth of trying to figure out how to pitch him, but he's just talented. He hits things hard and when he hits it hard they go a long way, whether it's left field or right field."
The White Sox are struggling to draw 12,000 to a game not played on Opening Day, but Abreu could change that very soon. White Sox players are already climbing to the top step of the dugout to get a glimpse of his at-bats.
"Me and Sailor [Chris Sale] were talking and we want to go thank [GM Rick Hahn] right now for signing him," pitcher John Danks said. "He's fun to watch, and it's scary, but he's only going to get better."
The White Sox were careful to not put too many expectations on Abreu either after he was signed or when he first started to open eyes this spring. Now that cat is way out of the bag and denying his huge upside is futile.
Along with his two home runs, he also managed an RBI ground out to the right side of the infield. It wasn't the prettiest of RBIs, but it was enough to get the job done and he didn't have to swing from his heels to do it.
"It's rare I think that you get guys with his kind of power that have enough discipline to be able to go the other way and stay in it," Ventura said. "The [RBI ground out] is not necessarily what you want, but you really want that one run for sure, so he's still executing even though he does have that ability to hit homers."
Told that Ventura called him "really good," Abreu smiled.
"I thank Robin for that comment," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I don't know about that. But I can tell you I'm just trying to help the team win and trying to do my part, so that's what I'm trying to do. But again I thank Robin for those comments."
It wasn't an easy day to smile. The White Sox learned early in the day that Avisail Garcia would be lost for the season because of a shoulder injury, meaning that Abreu's tag-team partner in the middle of the order would be reduced to being a spectator.
Yet for one day, anyway, Abreu carried the torch for both of them.
"It is sad and it's difficult and especially because we had a really good relationship," Abreu said. "These are some of those things that life throws a lot and we are not expecting. It's very difficult for me, like I mentioned before, because of the relationship that I have with Avi."
The White Sox are far from a finished product, but unlike last year they are showing a resiliency that is easier to watch. The bullpen might be struggling and the rotation might have question marks, but the offense can do things now like rally from early deficits the way they did against the Indians.
"I tell you right now, those guys did a great job," Danks said of the offense. "I put us in an early hole before they even got a chance to hit. I've said all along they have no quit. This is a fun team to be on. Those guys are going to play until the last out, and we saw that today. They didn't hang their heads. They just went to work, and fortunately we were able to put up enough runs to let me settle down."