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updated: 8/2/2014 11:56 PM

Abreu quite a big hit with White Sox

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  • White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who saw his hitting streak end at 21 games in Saturday's loss to the Twins, is putting up more than impressive numbers, especially for a rookie.

      White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who saw his hitting streak end at 21 games in Saturday's loss to the Twins, is putting up more than impressive numbers, especially for a rookie.
    Associated Press

 
 

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu leads the major leagues with 31 home runs and 84 RBI.

His 21-game hitting streak, the longest in the American League this season, came to an end in Saturday night's 8-6 loss to the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field when he went 0-for-3 with 2 walks (1 intentional).

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Abreu already has won two AL Rookie of the Month awards and one Player of the Month honor.

Considering he batted .374 with 6 home runs and 19 RBI in July, which was abbreviated by the all-star break, Abreu's name is expected to be called again Monday when Player/Rookie of the Month honors are announced.

When the Sox signed the former Cuban star to a six-year, $68 million contract in late October, expectations were high for the 2014 season and beyond.

But Abreu has become so good so fast, it's almost hard to fathom.

"Very impressive," said White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson. "If you were going to check all the boxes of what you would have liked to see with him, I think they're all checked,"

Abreu is not your average major-league rookie. He is 27 and started playing for Cienfuegos in Cuba at 17. But the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder still has made his first season in the major leagues look pretty easy.

"His plate coverage is unreal," said Twins relief pitcher Casey Fien, who gave up a single to Abreu on Friday night. "He can cover the inside and he can cover the outside. You've definitely got to make your pitches with him."

Lately, the best pitch to Abreu is well out of the strike zone.

As pitchers -- and managers -- around baseball continue to watch him wreak havoc, Abreu has been drawing more and more walks.

"He's on everything," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Inside, outside, we've tried everything. We've thrown breaking balls, we've bounced balls. The young man's a nice hitter. He's comfortable right now. Obviously, he's swinging very good and you know what, you've just got to try to keep mixing it up.

"You can't get into patterns on him. You have to be able to pitch him hard in and you've got to be able to spin some away, but more than anything else we've been kind of missing over the middle of the plate, and every time you do that he whacks it."

Abreu's ability to adjust was questioned from the first day he signed with the Sox, along with his bat speed and effectiveness hitting in the cold weather.

So far he has soared over every hurdle, and imagine what Abreu's numbers would be like if he didn't miss two weeks (May 18-June 1) with a bad ankle.

"At first, it was difficult," Abreu said through a translator. "We are playing the best baseball in the world, major-league baseball. We are playing against the best pitchers in the world. I've learned to work through that, and that's through doing my homework, looking at video, getting extra at-bats, lifting (weights), doing all those things. I've been able to work at it, but it was difficult at first.

"I never had any doubt or question that I could play and help at this level. I always felt that at the end of the year, whatever numbers would be there, the most important numbers and output were going to be there and (would) help this team win."

Raising his batting average to .308 during a recent tear of hitting safely in 39 of 41 games, is Abreu positioned to make a run at the Triple Crown?

"I wouldn't want to put that kind of pressure on that guy," Steverson said. "The pressure he faces in general, just coming into major-league baseball without having any games hardly in the States or the minor leagues and going straight to the highest level, I think he's handled that pressure pretty good.

"So from that level, let the man play the season out and we'll see what happens. Just enjoy what you get a chance to watch every day."

Steverson also is in his first season with the White Sox, and Abreu has helped make his typically stressful job much more enjoyable.

"He's very self-sufficient," Steverson said. "He doesn't require a whole lot of maintenance. He knows who he is and he knows the type of hitter he wants to be. He knows how to make his own personal adjustments in-game without me having to tell him this or that.

From a hitting coach standpoint, that's great."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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