White Sox

Jose Abreu still likely to hit second for White Sox on Sunday

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Jose Abreu still likely to hit second for White Sox on Sunday

DETROIT -- Sounds like it’ll take more than a postponement to keep Jose Abreu from hitting second for the White Sox.

Though he joked a good night’s sleep could change his mind, White Sox manager Robin Ventura suggested he would keep his slugger in the second spot for Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the Detroit Tigers.

With the White Sox struggling against left-handed pitchers all season, Ventura wants his best hitter to get as many possible opportunities to hit and had placed Abreu second in Saturday’s lineup against Tigers lefty Kyle Ryan. Even though the game has been rained out, Detroit will start southpaw David Price and that is likely to keep Abreu hitting second for the first time in his career.

[MORE: Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game rained out]

“We’ve had a tough go left-handed wise,” Ventura said. “Shuffling it up enough to move him up and give him another opportunity if it’s there. I think with a lineup you tend to shuffle and find something that works and this looks like a good move right now, to be able to get him up there and something to shuffle the deck.

“We’ll see how it goes, but I like having him bat that many times, definitely.”

Surprised by the news but willing to do whatever he’s asked, Abreu said his approach wouldn’t change with the switch. Ventura doesn’t want the slugger to change, either.

Abreu hasn’t batted this high in the order since in his early days in Cuba. All of his starts with the White Sox have come with him hitting third or fourth.

“It doesn’t matter what spot in the lineup that I am,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The only difference now being in the second spot is that I’m probably going to get one more at-bat and I’m going to see more pitches.

“I’m going to keep my regular approach.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Jose Abreu jersey here]

Abreu even said he’s capable of bunting if it’s necessary, though Ventura made it clear he doesn’t want to see that. But Abreu said he works on bunting every day in batting practice and can do it if needed.

“They are there,” Abreu said of his skills. “I always try in BP to bunt. It’s not for the routine. I try to do it because you never know what situation in the game you have to do it. If the opportunity is for me to bunt, I’m going to bunt.”

Even though they signed Melky Cabrera to hit second, White Sox No. 2 hitters have a collective .220/.255/.257 slash line with the .511 OPS representing the worst numbers from any spot in their lineup. That .511 OPS from two-hole hitters ranks 30th in the majors, 94 points below the next worst team and 226 points below the .737 league average.

The White Sox have also struggled mightily against southpaws with a .563 OPS. They’re hitting .673 versus right-handers.

“I like him to be up there,” Ventura said. “That two hole for us has always been a rough spot. And with us facing lefties, we have enough righties to be able to fill in the rest of the spots. Just move him up and give him more opportunities.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: American League All-Stars rave about Jose Abreu

With Jose Abreu playing in the All-Star Game, we asked some of his American League teammates about the White Sox first baseman. Justin Verlander, Craig Kimbrel and Michael Brantley rave about Abreu, explaining why he’s such a great hitter and a tough out for pitchers. 

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

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USA TODAY

All Star of the present Jose Abreu trying to help Yoan Moncada become the All Star of the future for White Sox

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While the White Sox wait for their All Stars of the future to develop, Jose Abreu is representing the club at the All-Star Game in the nation’s capital.

Abreu, elected by the fans to be the American League’s starting first baseman Tuesday night, might represent the White Sox present, but he’s a key part of their future, as well. While his contract situation remains a mystery — the team would need to extend him in order to keep around past the 2019 season — he’s helping to develop the players who are planned to make up the next contending group on the South Side.

No player is more under Abreu’s guiding hand than Yoan Moncada, his fellow Cuban who just a season ago was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Moncada’s development from top prospect into star of the future is the biggest storyline of the season for the White Sox. And Abreu, the role model in this clubhouse, is in part tasked with helping Moncada do just that.

“Our friendship is special,” Moncada said through a team translator last week. “We’re always talking about everything, having fun. He gives me advice, and I always try to make fun of him. Our relationship has been for a long time. We were friends in Cuba. And now we are rejoined here. It’s just a very good relationship. I’m blessed having him here.”

“He’s a Cuban, and it’s always special to play with a fellow Cuban countryman. He’s a great kid,” Abreu said through a team translator Monday. “I think that it’s a blessing. The White Sox did all that they could do for us to play together. I’m just enjoying the moment and every day with him. It’s special. It’s definitely a very special feeling.”

Abreu is often lauded by White Sox brass as the perfect example of what they want their young players to become. His incredible production makes that an easy comparison: He put up at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first four major league seasons. But it’s what he does outside the lines that gets the highest praise. Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all of Abreu’s teammates constantly talk about his work ethic, his routine, his dedication to getting better and the way he goes about his business.

Moncada’s noticed. And he sees Abreu’s latest accomplishment — getting picked as an All-Star starter — as vindication that, yes, Abreu’s methods certainly work.

“Knowing him, knowing all the effort that he puts into his preparation, his work ethic, all that work that he puts into his preparation is paying off and he’s recognized with this election,” Moncada said. “That’s something that motivates you, something that lets you know that if you do things the right way, you’re going to get rewarded. For me, it’s a motivation, and I feel really honored to share this team with him.”

Moncada’s first full season in the bigs hasn’t gone smoothly. He’s had his hot stretches — including the last couple weeks; he’s slashing .356/.453/.644 since July 2 — but he’s also had long periods of struggles. Certain aspects, such as a propensity for striking out and making errors at second base, have been constants throughout the campaign.

Renteria refers to the mistakes and the poor results as teachable moments. Does he have a proxy teacher in Abreu?

“I tell him to enjoy the game,” Abreu said. “Enjoy the game, have fun, be a little more focused on the situation of the game. But I think the key is to have fun.”

Mostly, though, Abreu is convinced that Moncada will blossom into the kind of player White Sox fans hoped he would when he brought that top-prospect track record to the organization in the Chris Sale trade. The expectations are undoubtedly high, but Abreu’s been seeing Moncada meet them for some time. The two have known each other since the younger Moncada was 17 years old.

“I think that he was born with special abilities to play this sport,” Abreu said. “Before I met him, there were a lot of people talking about him in Cuba because of his abilities, the talent that he has. And when I met him, it was a very special moment. As soon as I met him, I realized, ‘Wow, what people say about him is true.’ His body type, his ability to play the game. He’s special.”

So will the All Star of today and the All Star of tomorrow one day share the All-Star stage?

“I would like to have that opportunity. Let’s pray to God to have that opportunity,” Abreu said. “If that happens, that would be really special for us.”