Chicago White Sox: Albert Pujols
There is little denying, however, that Abreu enjoys similarities to Pujols, and the comparisons have grown with Abreu’s White Sox and Pujols’ Angels facing off this week in Chicago.
"He has the ability and the talent to do it," Pujols said. "This game is about making adjustments. It's the same game you play in your backyard. It’s the same game you play in Little League. It’s the same game you play in the minor leagues, Triple-A, and then you get into the big leagues.
"It’s about being smart and making adjustments. That’s one of the things I told him back in spring training: That it’s no different than the game he played back in Cuba."
Abreu speaks of Pujols in reverent tones and has already expressed gratitude for the advice he received in Arizona.
Abreu has taken it from there, delivering one of the best starts to a career in major league history. His 26 home runs were the most in major league history form a player in his first 71 games, and his 67 RBIs were tied for sixth most with Wally Berger (1930) and Joe DiMaggio (1936).
But with Abreu, success never seems to be about him. He consistently mentions his faith and puts team results above all else. Yet there seems to be somebody else who inspires him to be the best baseball player and person he can be.
"Every time I hit a home run, I enjoy it, and more so because there's one person that really enjoys when I hit them, and that's my mother," Abreu said. "Every time I hit one, I know that she's happy."
Pujols has also provided inspiration. Comparing the two hitters might not be fair at this point, but it's so hard to avoid it.
"It's unfair, but it's fun," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "I think that's what baseball's all about: comparing people. I think that happens all the time. Is it fair to put him in there? Probably not. That's a lot of expectations to put on him. But it's fun.
"You look at guys, you see the kind of year Jose's having, and people naturally would compare those two together. But the numbers Albert's put up have been crazy in itself. You'd like Jose to look to follow along that path if it's possible."
Pujols is definitely impressed with what he’s seeing, especially after Abreu hit a home run on a line to right field in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader.
"He obviously has [a] real nice, short, compact swing," Pujols said. "He’s obviously strong enough that he can use the entire field. He doesn’t have to be a pull-happy guy.
"Look at that ball he hit yesterday. I mean, there aren’t too many guys who can hit a ball out of the ballpark like that down the right-field line."
Pujols seems to think Abreu can be as good as he wants to be.
"It’s up to him," Pujols said. "It’s going to be about the more he’s around the league, the more adjustment he’s going to have to make. The pitchers are going to adjust to that; but as a hitter, it’s our job to adjust, too.
"Myself, 14 years in the league and I still try to make adjustments every at-bat. You prepare yourself for a pitcher tonight, and sometimes, the approach is not the same you thought it would be, so you switch up during the game."
During the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Pujols reached first base and appeared to talk to Abreu the entire time, even though he had to turn his head to do it since Abreu wasn’t holding him on at the bag.
"He’s a real nice kid; I like him," Pujols said. "You don’t get much time on the base to talk. In Anaheim, I had a chance to talk to him for about 10 minutes. Just talking to him, catching up and seeing how he’s adjusting to everything.
"It’s tough, you know, not having his whole family here and coming to the States to play the game. It can be tough, but hopefully, he can continue to do it and stay healthy."
The hardest part seems to be everything off the field. On the field, it should be easy for Abreu, according to Pujols.
"He doesn’t have to change anything," Pujols said. "Why change something that’s working? He’s really humble. I’m pretty sure he’s a hard worker and dedicated and doesn’t take anything for granted."
It’s been obvious after 24 games what type of hitter Abreu is, but he just might be a better person.
"We had some great conversations," said Abreu, who also had a home run in the third inning for his third multihomer game of the young season. "We are both believers in God, and I want to take the opportunity to send Pujols congratulations for reaching 500 home runs. That’s a great accomplishment, and he deserves that and a lot more."
Pujols hit his 500th career home run earlier in the week and Abreu is starting to show he just might have what it takes to get there too one day.
In fact, Abreu’s second home run of Friday’s game gave him nine in the opening month of the season to set a rookie record. Pujols was one of three players, along with Carlos Delgado and Kent Hrbek, who had shared the mark. Abreu simply caught and passed the group in one night.
And when Abreu’s grand slam cleared the right-field fence off Tampa Bay Rays reliever Grant Balfour, it also allowed him to tie the rookie record for RBIs in March/April with 27. He now shares that mark with Pujols, and there are still five games remaining before the calendar flips to May.
While it might have been a bit blasphemous this spring to compare Abreu to somebody like Pujols, the similarities are becoming clearer by the week, the game and the inning.
"You can’t script this, but you’re talking about [a] guy [Abreu] who is very professional about what he does,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s not a normal rookie that doesn’t know anything. He definitely knows what he’s trying to do. I’m glad he’s on our team."
Jose Abreu is 1-for-21 since his home run against the Indians a week ago.
It was not unexpected that he would have struggles as he transitions to a new league, it’s just that his hot start and disciplined approach at the plate seemed to get everybody used to the idea that he would be able to handle himself just fine in the majors.
Wednesday’s 0-for-6 performance, though, means that Abreu is 1-for-21 since hitting a home run in the fifth inning of Thursday’s game against the Cleveland Indians. That homer was Abreu’s second of the game.
Looking back, there were warning signs that he wasn’t quite right at the plate. The night after his two-homer game he struck out twice against the Indians and three more times the following night.
Here’s a quick look at the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-2 win over the Chicago White Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Wednesday.
How it happened: White Sox starter Gavin Floyd suffered his worst start in nearly a month. He gave up 10 hits and seven runs in six innings. He had allowed a total of four runs over his previous four outings. Albert Pujols may just be breaking out his slump for the Angels. A game after going 3-for-4 with two RBIs, Pujols homered and drove in three runs against the White Sox. He gave the Angels a 4-2 lead with a three-run shot in the third inning for his second homer of the season. White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham snapped an 0-for-15 slump with an RBI double in the third inning. Dayan Viciedo had three hits, including a home run, for the White Sox. Jerome Williams picked up the win for the Angels.
What it means: The White Sox’s pitching has been suspect for much of the last week, and it’s been a mixture of starters and relievers who have struggled. In the last five games, the White Sox have allowed 59 hits and 36 runs.
Outside the box: Wednesday’s loss guaranteed the White Sox at most a split in the two-game series with the Angels. It’ll be the eighth consecutive series the White Sox have either split or lost. The last series they won came in a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners from April 20-22.
Up next: The White Sox will face the Angels in the finale of the two-game series at 2:35 p.m. CT Thursday. Chris Sale (3-2, 3.08) will start for the White Sox, and the Angels will counter with C.J. Wilson (4-3, 3.42).
Call the experience a learning curve for Sale who hit Albert Pujols in his first at bat then gave up a 480-foot homer the second time around.
”A hitter like him, he’s arguably the best hitter in the game, so when you see [the catcher call for a] fastball in, you got to get it in,” Sale said. “He proved a couple innings later that if you are going in, you better get it in.”
Sale, attempting to make the transition from the bullpen to the rotation, has allowed eight earned runs in just 7 1/3 innings over his first two spring starts.
When told of his stat line, he responded, “what ? I’ve given up eight runs in eight innings that is un- acceptable on every level. I’m disappointed in what happened, but there were a lot of positives”
What, exactly, were those positives?
The Sox’s left-hander went the deepest into a game of any starter this spring and was able to command his breaking pitches for the most part.
“You hopefully learn something,” manager Robin Ventura said. “[Pujols is one of the best hitters to ever play in the game so it is good to see what he has got against him.”
Ventura remains confident that Sale will get it together this spring.
”He still has great stuff and he is going to be in there,” Ventura said.
Ventua said reliever Jesse Crain strained a right oblique muscle in the bullpen and was scratched from appearing in today’s game. Crain will be re-evaluated on Thursday.