Robin Ventura has seen a lot of major leaguers. But has he ever seen one get his career off to as good a start as Jose Abreu has?
“Yeah, they had Frank Thomas here. He was pretty good,” Ventura said. “He made the Hall of Fame and everything.”
The White Sox manager answered that question with a smile, perhaps simultaneously joking and cautioning the over-hyping of Abreu through just the first 10 games of his career. But there’s no doubting how impressive those first 10 games have been.
The Cuban first baseman is batting .300 with a 1.108 OPS through 10 games, including four home runs, 14 RBIs, three doubles and three walks. He has a pair of two-homer games, most recently in Thursday night’s 7-3 win over the Indians.
Abreu isn’t the next Big Hurt quite yet — though El Daño Grande has a nice ring to it (“The Large Damage,” per Google Translate) — but expectations are increasing with a lightning-quick pace. The rookie slugger said he’s just trying to keep doing what he’s doing and keep his focus on team performance rather than the individual.
“The only success and expectations that I care about is the team success,” Abreu said through a translator Friday. “It’s not about my own personal success, it’s about the team success. Whatever I can do to help the team win games or succeed, that’s all that really matters as far as expectations and being successful.
“You work so hard during spring training, you work so hard with your teammates and the people that support you. The only hope is that I can keep working hard and keep doing what I’m doing and not worry about those other things and just have the support of my teammates and keep having the success that we’re having.”
Ventura said it’s too early to extrapolate 10 games into a season or more of sustained offensive success, but there’s no doubting the advantages Abreu has over other rookies who have got off to hot starts in the past.
“Again, this is early, but he’s good. That’s part of who he is, and the age that he’s at coming over, you’re not looking at a 19-year-old kid coming over here and crossing your fingers,” Ventura said. “He’s good, he’s played against good competition before, and he’s just proving it right now that he belongs in this league.”
As for comparisons to Thomas? They might seem just a tad ridiculous at the moment. Ventura said the two are similar in their ability to hit the ball the other way with power, but no one’s expecting a Hall-of-Fame career from someone who’s still in Month 1. (For the record, Thomas hit .273 with a .715 OPS, zero home runs and four RBIs in his first 10 career games.)
That being said, Abreu would obviously be thrilled by those comparisons.
“Of course. We all know what he’s done, we all know what he’s accomplished. For any player to be compared to a legend, someone as great as him, it’d be an incredible compliment, of course,” Abreu said.