Rays manager Joe Maddon has had an up-close look at Jose Abreu over the last few days, with the White Sox slugger hitting a walk-off grand slam Friday and driving in four on Sunday.
Naturally, Maddon's come away impressed with the 27-year-old rookie. But Maddon, in his ninth year managing the Rays, offered up some higher-than-high praise for Abreu prior to Monday night's series finale at U.S. Cellular Field.
When asked about Abreu's impact on the White Sox, Maddon compared it to Detroit adding Miguel Cabrera and Los Angeles adding Mike Trout.
"There’s always these prodigy kind of players out there, that when they show up, it’s a combination of great work ethic and calm and ability to go out there and perform, that’s what I see with him," Maddon said. "I’ve heard about his work ethic. He’s extremely calm. Coming where he came from and what he’s probably seen before he got here, this is, you know, 30,000 people is not going to bother him. Plus, he probably doesn’t understand them anyway. So, it all works in his favor. Plus he’s really talented. He’s really talented."
The White Sox entered Monday night at 13-13 with the highest-scoring offense in baseball. Abreu's been a big part of that, hitting 10 home runs and driving in 31 -- both major league rookie records for the month of April. But Maddon thinks Abreu's success has had an impact on the rest of the White Sox lineup, which has seen guys like Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers turn in impressive starts to the season, too.
"There’s a grittiness about them right now," Maddon said. "I’m not saying they did this last year, they’re not mailing anything in. Their at-bats are really sound right now. ... But I think primarily, the biggest difference for me the group, one through nine, on the field, is very interesting for me.
"When you’re hitting Ramirez, what, sixth right now? I mean, Ramirez is hitting sixth. That says something. And (Adam) Eaton gives you a component at the top of the lineup that you haven’t had in a while, with that kind of eagerness and speed. It’s different. And he’s definitely a high-energy guy.
"Flowers, to me, is a different player. Looks like he lost some weight. He looks to me like he’s in better shape. He’s got a better approach at the plate. He’s a different player.
"I mean Viciedo, all the group, (Adam) Dunn looks good, but saying all that -- the guy at first base makes all the difference. One guy can make that kind of an impact on a team."