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Sox find it 'tough to watch' José Abreu get hit by pitches

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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Opposing teams can't seem to stop hitting José Abreu.

While Luis Robert taking a 96 mile an hour fastball off the helmet was the more memorable hit batsman of Tuesday evening's tilt with the Los Angeles Angels — and the one, because of its location, that most riled up manager Tony La Russa — the Chicago White Sox' team leader and reigning American League MVP was also drilled, ratcheting his total to one shy of 20 on the campaign. That's tied for the third most in Major League Baseball this season.

It's been a constant sight throughout the year, even as Abreu has managed to follow up his MVP season with a run at a third straight AL RBI crown. White Sox closer Liam Hendriks offered an explanation earlier in the season, after Abreu was hit in the helmet by Cleveland Indians reliever James Karinchak, describing that pitching inside to Abreu is one of the few ways to get such a great hitter out.

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But not all pitchers possess elite control every time they take the ball. Malice has rarely come into the equation, it seems, as pitchers are often just as frustrated — and frightened — as anyone in a White Sox uniform. But a lack of control can be as dangerous as someone intentionally trying to do something, leaving the White Sox in the same position of having to worry about their most important hitter.

 

"It's tough," Hendriks told NBC Sports Chicago last week in Oakland, "because at the end of the day, we play so many different teams that, at certain points, he gets hit so often, you almost forget who does it. And that's unfortunate, because if it's a team that's hitting him six, seven times a year, there may be some issues that arise from that.

"Like I said, the way to pitch him is in, and unfortunately — I've never got close to hitting him, I don't think, but I know people that have and it's completely unintentional. You've seen the pitches this year, it's breaking balls, it's changeups, it's everything inside. And he dives a little bit, but not by any means any more than the next bloke. And it's just unfortunate that he seems to keep getting hit.

"It's definitely a sign of respect for what he's been able to do at the plate. There's a reason he's hitting what he's hitting. ... Just the way he is with runners on, that's the most crucial time for a pitcher, and that's the time you tend to make the mistakes. But you tend to make the mistakes as balls. And that seems to be when he's getting hit."

Abreu's shown an at-times unbelievable resilience to taking a physical pounding this season, the 19 pitches he's been hit with only a fraction of the beating his body has taken in ways expected and fluky over the course of 162 baseball games. But the White Sox would prefer that, you know, he didn't get hit so much.

For Abreu, it's old hat. Though he's never been hit this many times previously in his major league career, he said that things were different before he came to the United States.

"In Cuba," Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo earlier this month, "I was hit probably around 30 times in 60 games. Here in 162 games, I just got hit 15 times.

"I run to first base (instead of walking), just another way to enjoy the game."

That's Abreu's glass-half-full outlook for you. But the White Sox get a tad more miffed, as evidenced by La Russa' and other players' immediate reactions to Abreu getting plunked in the helmet by Karinchak back in late July.

As for whether they'll comply with any of the fan requests that pop up from time to time on social media calling for them to send a message of their own, just know the White Sox are hardly oblivious to the situation, while maintaining the public opinion that they've seen nothing glaringly intentional to this point.

"It's tough to watch as the home team, it's tough to watch as a visiting team. It's tough to watch a guy continually go out there and get hit," Hendriks said, "especially now, knowing Pito as the person he is, knowing the competitor he is. Because he's not coming out of a game, it doesn't matter. You're going to have to stretcher him off if you want to get him out of the game. It's tough to watch.

 

"It's definitely something that we're all cognizant of, and if we ever see anything with malice, there may need to be something that happens."

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