PEORIA, Ariz. — Jose Abreu was back in the White Sox lineup Friday night and glad to have the weight of testifying in a federal trial off of his shoulders.
Abreu returned to the White Sox on Friday morning after he spent two of three days in Miami on the witness stand in an alien smuggling trial for his former agent, Bartolo Hernandez, and athletic trainer, Julio Estrada.
Among many details offered about his 2013 defection from Cuba, Abreu testified under oath that he ate a portion of a fraudulent passport while flying to the United States.
The slugger — who went 1-for-3 with an RBI in a 3-1 White Sox win over the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium — has long known he'd have to testify after charges were brought against Hernandez and Estrada last April. Needless to say, Abreu, who testified under a grant of limited immunity for his illegal travels, is glad the experience is over.
"It was very difficult to see what happened last season," Abreu said through an interpreter. "But I'm just glad that all that is behind me. I'm glad to be here. Glad to be with the White Sox. This is a great organization to be in. They've helped me a lot and all the guys, I have all my family here. The only member of my family that is not here is my son. But I hope that I can be with him soon again. I'm just glad to be back and for all the things that are happening in my life."
Abreu was all smiles upon returning to the clubhouse. After he missed three straight contests, Abreu informed manager Rick Renteria he wants to play straight through Monday.
"He's very excited," Renteria said. "He came in and said he wants to play every single day until the day off, so he's in there tonight, tomorrow and the next day probably."
It's hard not to think the case had an impact on Abreu during the 2016 season. Estrada was the best man at his 2015 wedding and helped Abreu's parents travel to Minneapolis in July 2014 to attend the All-Star Game.
Abreu spent the first four months of last season in a prolonged slump. General manager Rick Hahn thinks some of the external events in Abreu's life may have been difficult for the slugger to handle.
"There was a little disruption in his life because of the situation," Hahn said. "I know in talking to his representatives last week, Jose was looking forward to having this behind him and sort of turning the page. Once the testimony is done, perhaps now he can just close the book on that whole period of time in his life and focus on a lot of the good things that are going on right now for him."
Abreu addressed several questions in a press conference on Friday. But it was clear he's ready to move on and focus on the 2017 season.
On the stand, Abreu recounted nearly every detail about his escape from Cuba with his family, his stopovers in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and how he chugged a Heineken to help swallow the pieces of his passport. Before reiterating how happy he is to be back with the team, the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year said he hopes that future Cuban athletes can avoid what he had to endure to live out his dream.
"I just hope the new kids who have this dream to play in the majors, they don't have to pass through the whole journey that I had to pass," Abreu said. "I'm just glad to be here. I'm very thankful for the way that this country has welcomed me. The people who live in this country have been very good with and I'm thankful for all the support and help."
Also notable against the Padres was Yoan Moncada, who went 2-for-4 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored.