After a two-week absence, Jose Abreu proclaimed on Sunday he's able to return to the White Sox.
Abreu had about 10 at-bats against live pitching in a simulated game Sunday morning, and while the rust remained evident, he's shown the White Sox he's healthy enough to re-join the lineup Monday in Los Angeles.
"I'm anxious to get started," Abreu said Sunday through team translator Lino Diaz. "I'm ready."
In 44 games before landing on the disabled list May 18 with posterior tibia tendonitis in his left ankle, Abreu slammed 15 home runs with a .908 OPS and 42 RBIs. His return to the middle of the White Sox order should provide a jolt for an offense that's scuffled a bit as of late.
But that jolt may not be immediate. The White Sox didn't send Abreu out on a rehab assignment so head trainer Herm Schneider could keep a close eye on him and they wouldn't lose days in the recovery process by traveling to and from Charlotte.
And while the live pitching Abreu faced in simulated games Saturday and Sunday was better than just taking batting practice, it's a far cry from what he'll face Monday against two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
"Any time you miss a couple of weeks, you accumulate a little bit of rust and this certainly isn’t going to be any exception," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Coming back against Clayton Kershaw is probably not ideal in terms of shaking off that rust. But after talking it over with him and Robin (Ventura) and the coaches, it makes most sense to get going tomorrow."
Ventura said he's pleased with how Abreu's handled the mental aspect of sitting out, even if Abreu admitted it's been a difficult process. That mental approach has to stay sound, though, given the White Sox have scored fewer than four runs in nine of the 13 games he's missed entering Sunday.
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The White Sox don't want Abreu pressing right out of the gate, especially given that he hasn't played in two weeks.
"He can’t come back and figure he has to carry the team," Ventura said. "He just needs to be able to do the same stuff he was doing and hopefully everybody can fill in and help him out too.”
The White Sox begin a difficult 10-game stretch on Monday, with three games against the Dodgers and three against the Angels in Southern California before returning to Chicago for a four-game set with the Tigers.
It's too early to call it a make-or-break stretch for the White Sox, which began Sunday one game under .500. But if the next 10 games are a litmus test for the direction the club is heading this season, it'll be a far more accurate one with Abreu in the lineup.
"No, no pressure at all," Abreu said. "Unfortunately the last couple of days our offense has been down but that's part of baseball. You have ups and downs. You're going to go through those, whether I'm here or not, they can do it. It's a team. I don't feel pressure that I have to come in and do anything different."