Jose Abreu wins monthly honors after record-setting April

Jose Abreu wins monthly honors after record-setting April
May 5, 2014, 7:00 pm
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They didn’t need to slow play their hand.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn realizes that now.

But in order to temper expectations, Hahn spent the better part of offseason and spring saying the club would wait to evaluate its six-year, $68-million deal with free-agent signee Jose Abreu to give him time to acclimate to a new life and a new league.

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But on Monday, after Abreu was recognized as the American League player of the month and rookie of the month for a record-setting performance, Hahn admits maybe he didn’t need to be as cautious.

Abreu, who set rookie records for home runs (10) and RBIs (32) before May 1, is the first White Sox player to be named rookie of the month since Gordon Beckham in July 2009 and the team’s first player of the month since Magglio Ordonez in July 2003.

“I really should just take all that back and after one month, let’s just say it was a great deal,” Hahn said with a smile. “In all seriousness, there’s going to be some inevitable setbacks. There will be some adjustments. We’ve seen him go through one slump and one mini-slump after that. I think it’s a great testament to him and how hard he has worked and how quickly he has been able to make the adjustment to the league and a new clubhouse and a new culture. Very impressive to watch.”

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Abreu said he’s happy but didn’t hear the news until after he had arrived at Wrigley Field on Monday for the first of four meetings between the White Sox and Cubs. The series shifts to U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night.

Word of both honors arrived so late that Abreu hadn’t had time to inform his mother. He said he couldn’t wait to let the woman who inspired him to bring his game to the United States know about “her achievement,” he said.

Abreu has maintained confidence he would succeed in the majors since he arrived at Camelback Ranch in January. But he also disclosed Monday he wasn’t quite sure how quickly he’d acclimate.

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“I had a little anxiety of getting to know baseball here in the United States,” Abreu said through a translator. “But I wouldn’t call it nervousness. It was just anxiety to go through it and be able to experience it. Now, one month into it, it’s a great thing. I’m excited. I have to thank al the people that helped me through it with everything, my teammates, the team, they have helped me through that first month.”

The hardest part of the transition for Abreu has been the cold weather.

Abreu is accustomed to playing in much warmer weather and has said he has had trouble adjusting to the cold. The forecast in Cienfuegos, Cuba this week calls for temperatures in the mid-80s while Abreu has played in temperatures ranging from 36 to 55 degrees for most of the regular season.

But he has handled it well and opponents have taken notice.

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Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said Abreu has had an impact similar to those Mike Trout has had on the Los Angeles Angels and Miguel Cabrera has had in Detroit. Cabrera’s teammate, Justin Verlander, described Abreu as a force to be reckoned with and called the White Sox contenders because of their ability to hit.

Though they don’t want to put any higher expectations on Abreu and his Nintendo-like production at the plate, the White Sox admit they’re optimistic considering how he has performed in cold weather.

The White Sox were so worried about how the weather would impact his game that they purposely steered conservations away from it when Abreu asked, Ventura said.

“We weren't really going to give him a whole lot of information on how cold the winter really was and how cold it can be in April, and May,” Ventura said. “He's gone through April when it hasn't been very warm in our ballpark, and it's not really a hitter's park when it's cold like that. And he's been able to still put up the numbers he has, so that's a good sign for me. Most guys you just try and make it through April with your head above water and then make hay in June, July and August.”