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updated: 2/18/2014 11:03 PM

Abreu figures to be big hit for White Sox

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  • Upon arriving in Chicago, Cuban slugger Jose Abreu said his primary goal is working hard and producing for the White Sox on the field as their new first baseman.

      Upon arriving in Chicago, Cuban slugger Jose Abreu said his primary goal is working hard and producing for the White Sox on the field as their new first baseman.
    Associated Press

 
 

There is a long list of wait-and-sees on Jose Abreu.

The White Sox will have to wait -- and see -- how Abreu adapts to the pitching, which is going to be much tougher in the major leagues than what he faced in Cuba.

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They'll need time to gauge how their new first baseman handles life in a new country, a longer season and the pressures that are sure to accompany his six-year, $68 million contract.

So far, Abreu is doing everything right.

While he has been reluctant to provide any details about defecting to the United States, Abreu has said he left his home country with the blessings of his mother, Daisy Correa Diaz. She also inspired him to select a uniform number people will remember, so Abreu is wearing No. 79 with the Sox.

At his introductory news conference at U.S. Cellular Field in late October, Abreu said he was much more interested in working hard and producing for the White Sox than exploiting his fame and fortune off the field.

True to his word, the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder reported to Camelback Ranch, the Sox' spring-training complex in Glendale, Ariz., over two weeks early.

"Right now, I'm thinking of preparing for (Feb. 28), when the (exhibition) games start," Abreu told reporters through a translator Tuesday. "I'm working on little things, being able to hit the ball the other way, the way I pull my hands through. I'm not concerned with hitting home runs at all. It's a process."

Over his last four seasons in Cuba, Abreu batted .392 with 133 home runs, 337 RBI, 311 runs scored and 278 walks in 346 games, including the playoffs. He played for Cienfuegos in Serie Nacional (Cuban National Series), Cuba's top-level league.

Now he's on the White Sox, and the 27-year-old Abreu is working to prove he's not going to be your standard major-league rookie.

"It's professional," manager Robin Ventura said Tuesday. "That's another one of those things we liked about him, numbers-wise and talent. He has more of a professional approach for being a big guy, hitting the ball the other way, more aware of his pitch.

"That's stuff you like to see, the way they work, they go about it. He knows how to practice."

Barring injury or an unforeseen marathon slump, Abreu is going to be the Sox' regular first baseman.

Paul Konerko is back for 16th and final season with the Sox before heading into retirement, and he has played first nearly full time since arriving on the South Side in 1999.

Konerko is completely on board platooning with Adam Dunn at designated hitter and giving Abreu a break from time to time.

"As far as playing and stuff, it's whatever they want me to do," Konerko said. "I could go a week without playing, I could play three days in a row, some guy could have a bad go of it, if they want me to grab this game against a right-hander, whatever it is.

"I don't have any agenda. I'm not playing for anything, other than just what's in front of me because I know this is it. I'm just going to try to have fun with each day and try to be good when they ask me to get in there."

• Follow Scot's White Sox and baseball reports on Twitter@scotgregor.

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