KANSAS CITY -- Three days of rest has been good for Jose Abreu’s sore left shin.
But the knowledge and experience he gained from playing the entire 2014 season has been even better for the rest of his body. As he enters the final third of the regular season, Abreu is physically thriving. His bat is as good as it has been all season and his power seems to be at its peak whereas he was declining at this time a year ago.
Abreu recently said his physical preparation has him fresh for the final stretch of the 2015 campaign. Robin Ventura believes that has as much to do with Abreu knowing how to better manage himself in his second season. Prior to 2014, Abreu had never played more than 90 games in a professional season.
“He went through it, and he didn’t really understand until he got to the point where he realized 162 games are a lot of games,” Ventura said. “This year going into it, he understands that. He has battled through the finger issue and things like that. But to be physically strong, you also have to be mentally strong, and I think he was prepared for what it actually takes.”
Abreu did everything he could from a physical and dietary standpoint after he signed with the White Sox in November 2013 until he arrived at spring training. Not only did he cut weight, Abreu gained muscle. Yet by the time Abreu hit the 90-game mark in 2014, his body was sore everywhere.
Though his power dropped off drastically in the second half, Abreu’s OPS only dipped 24 points to .948 as his walk to strikeout improved. Only seven of Abreu’s 36 homers in 2014 came after the All-Star break.
This season, Abreu has five homers after the All-Star break and all have come within the last 15 games. Abreu --- who is hitting .364/.453/.709 with five homers and 17 RBIs in his last 64 plate appearances --- has 55 more games on the schedule after Friday’s opener against the Kansas City Royals.
“The difference has been huge,” Abreu said through an interpreter last month. “Last year, I wasn’t prepared to keep my performance during the 162 games. I learned from my experience, and this offseason I worked hard and I tried to add some work to try to improve my physical level and to keep my level during the whole season, to keep my body fresh. Yes, that is why I am feeling really good and am feeling in better shape than last year. This is an experience you have and you have to learn from it.”
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Last year’s experience has also given Abreu better knowledge of how pitchers work; he keeps copious notes on each pitcher in a diary. Abreu said his recent success has come after he made adjustments in his swing at the All-Star break. The result has been a ton of hard contact.
“During the break I was watching some videos and some things I wasn’t doing very well,” Abreu said. “I’ve been able to correct that and to hit to the opposite field and it’s something I used to do and I feel good. I have to thank God for the results I’ve had since the All-Star break.”
Aside from a sore finger and a few nagging issues, Abreu has been healthy all season. But he’s at his healthiest now and Ventura said it’s pretty evident from the swings he has taken.
“He went through a period where his finger wasn’t feeling that good but he was still over there, it just wasn’t quite coming off the bat that hard,” Ventura said. “Now, just the authority it’s coming off his bat is much different. He’s had some homers lately and some that were close, but you like where’s at just because it’s coming off the bat so well.”