The verbal communication hasn’t been perfected yet, but Jose Abreu managed to send a clear message this week about his strong work ethic.
White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson said he and the team’s Cuban slugger spoke in “Spanglish” several times this week at the team’s Camelback Ranch facility in Glendale, Ariz. But no language barriers could keep Steverson from discovering Abreu’s dedication to his craft.
On Tuesday morning, Abreu arrived 90 minutes early and despite a less-than-hospitable climate wanted to immediately start working with his new coach. Abreu’s first White Sox workouts were one of several highlights from this week’s three-day mini-hitters camp.
“It was about 41 degrees out there,” Steverson said. “(Abreu) walked in with his bat, batting gloves and he wanted to go straight to the cage. It was freezing out there. He didn’t care. He wanted to go out and get some work in.”
Steverson said Paul Konerko’s actions also spoke volumes about his mindset as he prepares to go into his final season. The veteran, who is returning for a limited role in 2014, not only worked on his own form but also began to mentor some of the club’s young position players.
“He will have a good influence on them going forward,” Steverson said.
Steverson worked with a number of other prospects, including Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton. Courtney Hawkins, Josh Phegley, Marcus Semien, Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson, Keenyn Walker and Jacob May also participated in the camp.
Just as he hoped, Steverson got across his message — he wants his hitters to be prepared to hit strikes and work within the strike zone — a philosophy he plans to deliver every day. Between that and getting to know his new teammates, Eaton gushed about what he accomplished at camp.
“This is one of the more productive camps that I’ve ever been a part of,” Eaton said.
As for Abreu, Steverson is impressed with “the thunder” in his bat. Steverson had an idea from scouting reports of what to expect and thought Abreu was even better. While Abreu lacks Gary Sheffield-type bat speed, his smart approach allows him to often get the barrel of the bat on the ball.
Steverson looks forward to when he gets to see Abreu face major league pitchers.
He has few worries about the Cuban slugger’s acclimation process after he worked with Yoenis Cespedes in Oakland.
He also knows Abreu’s effort won’t hold him back.
“He’s real regimented in that in terms of communication,” Steverson said. “I think he hasn’t really got the English part down yet, but baseball is his game.”