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updated: 4/26/2014 11:05 PM

Abreu impressing just about everyone

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  • Jose Abreu celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning of a baseball game on Friday, April 25, 2014.

      Jose Abreu celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning of a baseball game on Friday, April 25, 2014.
    Associated Press

  • Jose Abreu hits a grand slam against theTampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago on Friday, April 25, 2014. The White Sox won 9-6.

      Jose Abreu hits a grand slam against theTampa Bay Rays during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Chicago on Friday, April 25, 2014. The White Sox won 9-6.
    Associated Press

 
 

It wasn't much of an encore for Jose Abreu on Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

On Friday night, the White Sox' new first baseman had a game for the ages, hitting a 2-run homer and walkoff grand slam with two outs in the ninth inning to spark a 9-6 win over Tampa Bay.

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In the process, Abreu established a major-league record for rookies with 9 home runs in March/April, and his 27 RBI ties him with Albert Pujols for the most by a rookie in the opening month.

Like the rest of the Sox' offense in Saturday night's 4-0 loss to the Rays, Abreu's bat was silent.

"We had our chances," manager Robin Ventura said. "Nothing happened tonight."

Regardless, Abreu's dazzling debut has the baseball world talking.

"Abreu is going to be one of the best hitters in the league this year," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He's different. He's got a great feel for what he's doing. I don't think he's ever going to be in a panic mode. Every part of the ballpark is small to him, especially in this ballpark. When summer heats up, he's going to carry a lot of flyballs out of here. He's just a very mature, young hitter."

Considered a rookie despite being 27 years old, Abreu handled an earlier 1-for-21 slump with veteran poise and busted out in a big way.

"From the time I met him until now, he's had a solid work ethic and a thought process and a plan about how he goes about his business," White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said. "I mean, it's not like he's a 21-year-old kid coming up from the minors. He's had some higher competition style play before, playing in the World Baseball Classic and things like that. It really is just a testament to the type of work ethic and mindset he's able to put out there consistently.

"He handled the little slide he had there. I wouldn't even call it a slide -- it's just a blip that happens to pretty much almost everybody in this game at some point. To be able to evaluate what he was doing that wasn't positive, and to be able to go back and make the adjustment, it was good for him."

Steverson has been preaching pitch recognition and swinging at strikes since taking over as hitting coach on Oct. 31. Even the best hitters stray from the relatively simple plan at times, but the great ones get back to it faster.

"It was the pitches he was swinging at," Steverson said of Abreu's earlier slump. "It's rarely ever your swing. Your swing is your swing, but the approach to swinging at balls that are in the (strike) zone, it's pretty tough to put balls that aren't in the zone into the gap or get a hit.

"He got caught up swinging at a lot of breaking balls out of the zone, and they were using his aggressiveness against him a little bit. He was able to tone that back and get better pitches. I don't want to say he's not going to strike out, but the ability to recognize what you're doing to yourself is huge."

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