OAKLAND, Calif. — He may not be an All-Star, but Jose Abreu is unquestionably in a better place than he was one year ago.
The White Sox slugger said on Saturday morning one reason he’s rebounded this season is he’s focused too much on the present to spend time worrying about the past. A year removed from the worst stretch of his pro career, Abreu has rediscovered the form that made him the runaway winner for the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year award. He belted his 16th home run of the season on Tuesday as the White Sox fell to the Oakland A’s 7-6. Abreu, who finished 1-for-5 with three RBIs, is on pace to drive in 100 runs for a fourth straight season.
“I don’t like to turn back the page, I like to turn the page forward,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “It was a tough situation for me last year. I’m glad I’ve overcome all those situations. I’m in a great position right now. I’m playing more like I know I can play. I’m doing my best. I’m glad for all the people who supported to me in that tough moment. I’m just glad to be at this point and doing my best.”
Abreu has contended since March he’s in a “much better place” this season.
The first baseman endured his share of trying times last year, especially off the field. He learned of the arrest of his trainer and close friend Julio Estrada last April for Estrada’s involvement in the smuggling case that helped bring Abreu to the United States in late 2013. Abreu also was informed he would have to testify in the case, though he’d be granted immunity for his participation. Beyond that, Abreu wondered if he’d ever be reunited with his young son, Dariel, who he’d only seen once since escaping Cuba.
Abreu headed into the 2016 All-Star break with 11 home runs and a .756 OPS. At that point he was only two weeks into a 32-game homerless stretch that ended on Aug. 4.
But Abreu has since been reunited with his son, who visits again next week, and testified in the trial in March.
Those developments have freed Abreu up and his play would suggest it to be the case. Through Saturday, Abreu is hitting .292/.340/.515 with 16 homers and 58 RBIs in 82 games. He didn’t drive in his 58th run of 2016 until his 107th game.
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The White Sox have benefitted from Abreu’s improved play. Saturday was the 40th time in which the White Sox have scored five or more runs this season. Last season, the White Sox scored five or more runs only 67 times.
“It’s a big impact,” manager Rick Renteria said. “All of our guys have started to pick it up. (Todd Frazier), (Abreu), (Avisail Garcia) has been consistent all season. We’ve had output from guys nobody expected that we hoped would give us some, (Yolmer Sanchez) and (Matt) Davidson. All through the lineup everybody doing their thing and giving us moments. They continue to grind and play. Abreu’s consistency has been impactful. They just feed on each other.”
They root each other on, too.
Abreu has shown only love for Garcia, who two days ago was named the team’s lone All-Star representative. Abreu has championed Garcia’s accomplishment, stepping into his interview on Monday afternoon to inform reporters that Garcia was “happy, happy, happy” to be headed to Miami for next week’s exhibition.
Even though his numbers have been All-Star worthy as well, Abreu is content to be in a good spot. After all, he’ll also be in Miami, hanging out with his son and the rest of his family, including wife, Yusmary, who is due in October.
“(The All-Star Game) is not a disappointment,” Abreu said. “I’m realistic and I know there are a lot of players that have better stats than me. I’m glad for them to go. I did my best and I’m just working hard to help my team win games. I’ve had the experience. I experienced it three years ago. No regrets for me.”