Jose Abreu is back in the White Sox lineup because it’s important that he plays every day.
Why is it so important?
“Because my mom is not happy when I’m not playing.”
Abreu’s return won’t end up meaning much, considering this team entered Sunday with the worst record in the American League. But the slugger’s pleading with manager Rick Renteria to play during his three-game absence while nursing an elbow injury shows far more about what he means to this White Sox team and White Sox teams of the future.
“I was begging him to be in the lineup and he finally believed me,” Abreu said through an interpreter on Sunday.
“It’s difficult for me to be on the bench with the team, and I’m passing through this moment. I’m here to play,” he continued. “I come every day to play and to help the team win games. But it’s difficult sometimes. You probably aren’t 100 percent, but you have to keep grinding.
“I want to thank Ricky because he had patience with me. I went there the last three days and I was begging him and (telling him) that I was fine to play. But he said no. He said no, that he had to take care of me. He was doing his job and I want to let you know and to let him, too, that he’s a very special person for all of us and for me, of course. But right now, the most important thing is that I’m playing today.”
Though it might look like Abreu finally wore his manager down, instead it seems that Abreu’s elbow finally looked good enough for him to get back in the lineup. He was the team’s designated hitter Sunday, meaning he’ll get at least one more day off from playing the field.
“I don’t know if today was much of an argument,” Renteria said. “Today was more we saw him doing what he needed to do in order for us to be convinced he was capable of getting back into the lineup. So, kind of easy decision.”
The back and forth between Abreu and Renteria might not have resulted in much, just a lineup tweak in the final month of a last-place season. But it’s yet another example of the attitude that Abreu brings every day, an attitude that the White Sox young players — the guys who will make up that dream lineup of the future — would be wise to emulate.
Abreu has already expressed his goals of being a mentor to his countrymen in the White Sox organization, specifically Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert. But his presence as a veteran who goes about his work the right way and produces at a remarkable level could be invaluable to every one of these highly touted White Sox prospects when they all finally reach the South Side.
“That desire for him to want to play yesterday and the day before, truly commendable,” Renteria said.
Ultimately, Abreu’s contract situation will determine whether he’s still playing for the White Sox two or three seasons from now, when the franchise is expected to be a contender with all its assets finally reaching the major league level.
But certainly the White Sox should want to keep him around, if only to impart nuggets of wisdom like the one about making sure his mom gets to see him play every day.
For Abreu’s part, he’s always spoke of how much he wants to continue to be a part of this organization, and he’s making the most of the franchise’s current situation and rebuilding plan. In addition to putting up another incredible season swinging the bat — he was slashing .301/.355/.537 with 26 homers and 80 RBIs entering Sunday’s game — he said he’s getting a boost from the young players. Moncada’s locker is right next to his in the clubhouse, and as the big-name prospects keep trickling to the South Side, Abreu said he’s impressed more and more.
“First and foremost, I think we that we have to talk about their talent. They are a very, very good, talented group of young kids,” he said. “They’re coming here every day trying to do their best. They like to work hard, they have a lot of energy, and I’m just glad to be part of them and I’m glad I am in an organization that allows me to be part of this process, too.
“I think we all have to be patient with them because they are young but they have a lot of talent. We all know that for them it’s a learning process. Sometimes it’s not going to be a straight line in that process. But something that I’m glad for is to be around their personalities. They have a lot of energy, and they’re having fun. For us as veterans, that’s something you can get energized being around with those young players.”
Ideally, Abreu will still be anchoring the White Sox lineup as the kids keep coming up and keep developing, meaning the energy flow will keep on coming, keeping him young in the process. He shows no signs of slowing down at 30., and if his bat can stay as consistent as it’s been through the first four seasons of his major league career, there’s a good chance he’ll be around to lead all the youngsters on a contending White Sox team.
And he can show them the way, that it’s always a good idea to keep your mom happy.