White Sox

White Sox: Trusting the process, Jose Abreu busts out of his slump

White Sox: Trusting the process, Jose Abreu busts out of his slump

BOSTON — After slogging through the season’s first two months with a brittle .686 OPS, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu finally appears to be breaking free of the worst slump of his brief major league career. 

Entering Tuesday night’s contest against the Boston Red Sox, Abreu is hitting .348 with a 1.008 OPS through 17 games this month. He has four home runs in June — he only had six in April and May — and his go-ahead two-run double in the 10th inning of Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel on Monday earned the White Sox a much-needed win. 

Abreu hasn’t completely erased his first 53 games of the season, which saw his OPS bottom out at .675. His slash line is up to .267/.325/.440 but well beneath his career .296/.357/.521 mark. But hitting coach Todd Steverson saw Abreu stick with the right approach — it’s not as simple as him making good contact once for everything to click — throughout his early-season ineffectiveness, which has allowed him to re-emerge as a force in the White Sox lineup in June. 

“One knock doesn’t make a season and one knock doesn’t make an average go (up) 30 points, either,” Steverson said. “As anybody will understand if you watch this game long enough, this game’s a process. One game isn’t going to give you 100 points. We play every day, or almost every day, for a reason, and that’s to continue the process. 

“He’s done well on the process, he’s getting better, there’s still more left in there.”

Manager Robin Ventura said Abreu’s pitch recognition has improved over the last few weeks, leading to the 29-year-old Cuban slugger swinging at better offerings. Opposing pitchers battered him on the inner third and in off the plate during the first two months of the season — he’s always struggled to do much with those pitches — but as opposed to years past, Abreu wasn’t able to take or fight those pitches off with much effectiveness. 

In June, Abreu’s done a better job at working opposing pitchers into missing out over the plate, where the 6-foot-3, 255-pounder can extend his arms and slam line drives to every field. Kimbrel tried getting Abreu to chase low and out of the zone on Monday, but missed with a 2-2 fastball low and down the middle that Abreu ripped into right for his game-winning double. 

“During the whole at-bat I was trying to find his fastball because I know he has a very good fastball,” Abreu said through a translator. “I also was thinking of his curveball — I was trying not to swing at a bad pitch, especially his curveball because I know he throws the curveball down in the zone. I was able to battle and at the end find a fastball to put the barrel on the ball and get a base hit.” 

Abreu had gone through slumps before in his first two years with the White Sox, but those lasted days or weeks, not months. While the White Sox got off to a hot start (23-10) without him steering the middle of their order, Abreu’s powerful presence was sorely missed during the early part of a stretch that’s seen the team fall under .500 and to fourth place in the American League Central.

The White Sox lineup has yet to fire on all cylinders — third baseman Todd Frazier is hitting .125 with a .561 OPS in June — but getting Abreu back on track is a good start. 

“I think it’s perseverance,” Ventura said. “… He had a plan. He’s sticking to it, and he’s going to fight through it. But now he’s also swinging it better, seeing it better. That becomes a big thing for him. You can see his hands working a little bit better, getting the barrel to it, hitting the balls harder. When you stick it with that way, that gives you more confidence.”

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu has already begun mentoring Luis Robert

As the White Sox have added young Cuban stars in the making in Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, Jose Abreu's long-term role on the team has shifted.

The 31-year-old first baseman has been looked at as something of a mentor for the two young Cubans. He seems to be delivering on that so far.

Abreu picked up Moncada from the airport when he first was called up to the White Sox last July. Now he's helping Robert in the batting cage.

The Cuban trio is expected to play a big part of the White Sox future in the coming years. 

Robert has already stated his goal of making it to the majors this year to join Abreu and Moncada, but that may be an overly ambitious goal. Either way, plenty of eyes will be on him throughout 2018 as he marches towards the White Sox roster and his Cuban teammates.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Meet the real Tim Anderson

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Tim Anderson opens up about his struggles in 2017 and why he wants White Sox fans "to know the real me."

Anderson dives into his personal tragedy from last season when his best friend was murdered in Alabama. 

He talks with Chuck Garfien about the dark days that happened, how counseling helped him, his new leadership role in 2018, if he'll draw more walks this season, "bringing swag to the South Side" with Yoan Moncada and much more.

Listen to the full White Sox Talk Podcast right here: