What’s José Abreu’s advice as the Chicago White Sox try to find their footing early in the season?
Chicago White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf presented José Abreu the 2020 American League Most Valuable Player Award before Thursday’s home opener against the Kansas City Royals.
Fans at Guaranteed Rate Field chanted, “MVP.”
“It was a magnificent moment,” Abreu said through an interpreter before Monday’s 4-3 victory against the Cleveland Indians. “Just being there and receiving the award from Jerry, it was real. I really enjoyed that moment and I’m forever blessed to be part of the White Sox organization and forever blessed to call myself Jerry’s friend.
“It was a surreal moment and I really appreciate having the experience and especially him handing the award to me.”
Abreu is certain big moments are ahead for the Sox. He doesn’t think the team is trying too hard to live up to preseason expectations.
“Everybody in this division is going to have an expectation,” he said. “But you have to live with it. For us, we need to be realistic here. We have (played) nine games (through Sunday), just nine games in this season.
“Something we need to highlight (is) the connection there is in the clubhouse. The good relationship between the coaching staff and the players and how we are working together.”
Abreu said his advice to teammates is, “Don’t pay attention to what people are saying from the outside.”
“Just believe in yourself,” he said. “Trust yourself. Work hard and live in peace. Be in peace with yourself. If you do that, it doesn’t matter what people say about you or about the team. What matters is what you believe.
“That’s what I’m all about. I’m talking with them. I’m giving them advice. I’m here to support them.”
Abreu didn’t want to characterize the team’s record through three series as a “slow start.” The Sox improved to 5-5 with Monday’s win.
“It’s just baseball, and I think we’re doing the things we are supposed to be doing,” he said.
“Maybe the results aren’t there yet, but it’s a long season and we need to keep working and clean up a few things. But a start like we’re having right now, I think it’s a usual start for every team. It’s just a week into the season, and in the whole season we’re going to keep getting better as the season progresses.”
Abreu is taking that same mindset at the plate. He’s slashing .200/.298/.375 with two home runs and nine RBIs in the first 10 games. Both home runs were grand slams.
“Throughout my eight years in the majors, I haven’t gotten off to a really hot start,” he said. “It’s just who I am as a baseball player. I usually don’t start the season super hot. I’m going to keep getting better. You know me, I’m going to keep working hard. I’m not concerned about my offense right now.”
Some of the team’s offensive inconsistencies have come with runners in scoring position. The Sox performed well in that category Thursday, going 5-for-10 in the 6-0 win against the Royals. But they were 1-for-15 in that department in Sunday’s 4-3 loss in 10 innings.
“Hitting is really tough, and it’s tougher in a pressure situation when the guy on the mound is making sure he isn’t giving in to you,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said Monday. “Just get back to the basics.”
The Sox were 2-for-5 with runners in scoring position Monday.
The offense could receive a boost in the coming days if Tim Anderson continues to progress in his recovery from a strained left hamstring.
“Tim’s return date (from the injured list) is Thursday,” La Russa said, “and our expectation is he’ll start the game Thursday afternoon.”
Abreu, Anderson and Eloy Jiménez were recognized as 2020 Silver Slugger winners before Monday’s game, with Jimenez sharing a message on the Guaranteed Rate Field video board.
Even with Anderson and Jimenez out, the Sox have found ways to get on base, including nine walks Sunday. They led the American League in walks (50) and on-base percentage (.354) entering Monday.
“That’s a silver lining stat,” Abreu said. “For us as an offense to have those numbers and not being as good as we know we can be, it’s good. If we can sustain that when our offense clicks, we’re going to be a very dangerous team.
“That’s the good thing about this: We’re not in sync yet as an offense, but we still have good things to show, the walks and all that. It’s definitely an encouraging stat, an encouraging thing we’re doing right now. When our offense starts getting hot, it’s going to be even better.”
(Top photo of José Abreu and Tim Anderson on April 12, 2021: Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)