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Thursday, June 12, 2014
Jose Abreu up for biggest of challenges

By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO – Jose Abreu hasn’t discriminated when it comes to the pitchers he has taken advantage of, from right-handed to left-handed, starter to reliever, veteran to rookie.

All pitchers, outside of those wearing a Los Angeles Angels uniform, have felt his wrath, including the three former Cy Young Award winners he has hit home runs against: Clayton Kershaw, David Price and Justin Verlander (twice).

Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu has homered off some of the best pitchers in baseball. Will Max Scherzer be his next victim?
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Abreu has been able to get to the best of the best, since those pitchers are more likely to operate on their terms than specifically cater their approach to deal with Abreu’s weaknesses, however minimal they are.

Tell a young pitcher to pitch Abreu high and away or low and inside and that is what you expect to get. But are guys like Kershaw, Price and Verlander prone to doing things on their terms because of their track record of success?

“I wasn’t a pitcher, but I’m sure there’s some of it that’s there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think every guy that’s a competitor has some of that in them.”

Ventura has been on the other end of that concept, too.

“We have guys that like to challenge (Miguel) Cabrera,” Ventura said. “Sometimes that doesn’t work out. That’s what good hitters do, good pitchers do. That’s part of playing the game and guys get to match up their stuff with other guys' stuff.

“Especially with Jose being new, everybody hears about it, but until you see it you don’t know where you stack up. So I’m sure there’s some of that throughout the league.”

Abreu gets another chance to face an ace when he goes against the Detroit Tigers’ Max Scherzer on Thursday night. On Wednesday, Abreu tagged Verlander with his 19th home run of the season, a shot deep into the seats in left-center field.

He is 27 years old and has 10 years of experience while playing in Cuba, and the White Sox have always said they don’t consider Abreu a rookie, even though he has never faced major league-caliber pitching on a daily basis before this year.

The numbers bear out the fact that Abreu is much more advanced than other guys reaching the highest level of baseball for the first time.

His 19 home runs are seven more than the next closest rookie and his .950 OPS is over 100 points higher than all other rookies. He is also one of three players so far this season with 50 RBIs and a .950 OPS. Nelson Cruz and Giancarlo Stanton are the others.

In the seventh inning or later, Abreu’s .984 OPS is second only to Stanton’s 1.052 mark.

In eight games against the division rival Tigers this year, Abreu is batting .344 with a .364 on-base percentage and an .844 slugging percentage. He has four home runs against the Tigers – tied with the Cleveland Indians for his most against one team – with seven RBIs.

“He's up there ready to hit, and he has 11 or 12 hits against us,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “Most of them seem like they're extra-base hits, probably eight or nine extra-base hits. Honestly, I love the way the guy carries himself. He just goes about his business. He's not flashy. He does his job. He's been impressive, and certainly he's hurt us a number of times with his bat.”