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updated: 4/2/2014 9:54 AM

No rush to judgment on White Sox' Abreu

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  • Chicago White Sox Jose Abreu celebrates in the dugout after scoring in the second inning during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota twins Monday at US Cellular Field.

      Chicago White Sox Jose Abreu celebrates in the dugout after scoring in the second inning during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota twins Monday at US Cellular Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu connects during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota twins Monday at US Cellular Field.

       Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu connects during the White Sox home opener against the Minnesota twins Monday at US Cellular Field.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

In Monday's season opener, Jose Abreu could have gone 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts and that would have been just fine with White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.

And should Abreu find himself in teammate Adam Dunn's recent statistical territory at the end of April, May or even September, that's OK, too.

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Of course, Hahn and the Sox would much rather see more the big first baseman build off his promising major-league debut -- 2-for-4 with 1 RBI in the opening 5-3 win over Minnesota -- but the only pressure Abreu is going to be feeling for the foreseeable future will be coming from within.

"The Jose Abreu signing is going to be judged over the next six years, how many championships we're in position to win over those six years," said Hahn, who signed the former Cuban star to a six-year, $68 million contract Oct. 29. "There's no judgment on that signing on May 15 or even at the end of this season, at least from my standpoint.

"We are asking a tremendous amount of this individual in terms of changing leagues, cultures and even with his family. It's not an easy transition. Fortunately, he's talented enough and mentally strong enough that these distractions or difficulties, I think he has the ability to minimize them.

"But we're going to have to wait and see."

There are obvious questions about Abreu:

• After destroying lesser pitching in his native Cuba since 2004, when he was a 17-year-old man/child playing for Cienfuegos in Serie Nacional, can Abreu adjust to the much tougher arms in the major leagues?

"There's no doubt it's high-quality pitching," he said through a translator after Monday's game. "It's a higher level. They deserve all the respect. It's pretty good pitching."

• Can he hit in the cold weather months of April, May and September?

It was a balmy 65 degrees Monday at U.S. Cellular Field, but Abreu will be getting a taste of lower temperatures starting Wednesday.

Paul Konerko, the man he replaced as the White Sox' starting first baseman, says Abreu's approach should allow him to be dangerous under any conditions.

"He hits the ball up the middle or the other way really well," Konerko said. "If you stick with that, you are always going to pick up hits. He's always going to survive, at worst.

"I've seen him pull some nice balls out to left for homers, especially in (batting practice). The last couple of weeks he has been driving the ball to left-center and left field.

"With him, you can see it going a couple of different ways. If he wanted to come out and fill up this place with a bunch of hits, he could do it. If he wanted to hit a bunch of homers, he could do that. It will probably be a nice mix of both, but mainly it's the approach of he thinks small.

"That's what I see up there. He's thinking small a lot. That's a good way when you are a big strong man like he is, that's the right way to be."

• Can Abreu adjust to a new country?

The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder has offered very few details about defecting from Cuba, but Abreu has made it quite clear that he is very close to his mother, Daisy. When he doubled off Twins starter Ricky Nolasco on the first major-league pitch he saw Monday, Abreu said he thought of her.

According to an mlb.com report from spring training, the 27-year-old Abreu and his wife, Yusmary, defected from Cuba last summer and his mother, father, sister and brother-in-law are expected to arrive in the United States sometime this year.

His mother persuaded Abreu to wear No. 79 so people will remember him.

"Right now she is somewhere close, but I can't comment on that," Abreu said Monday.

The game is not going to be as easy as Abreu made it look in the season opener, but Hahn said the newcomer's strong work ethic could make the next six seasons something special.

"It wasn't that he was there at 7:30 (a.m.) the first day of spring training, working, based on everything we'd done on background and the workouts he did in the off-season," Hahn said. "The fact he was still doing that on Day 43 of camp speaks volumes as to his demeanor.

"I think what perhaps has been better than expected is his ability to stick to it."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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