By Nate Gotlieb
Contributor for CSNChicago.com
While Jose Abreu’s success may have surprised his teammates and coaches early this season, they have come to expect such numbers from the Cuban rookie.
Abreu became the third-fastest player in Major League history to hit 30 home runs on Friday, when he hit an estimated 427-foot bomb in the first inning of the White Sox 9-5 win over the Twins.
“I think we’re past the point of unexpected with him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “If he’s hitting well, it seems like we’re doing well. There’s a lot of good things that happen when we get guys on base and he’s up there.”
The 27-year-old first baseman said after the game he wasn’t expecting to hit 30 home runs this season.
“I knew that I was going to have some good results,” he said through Lino Diaz, the White Sox manager of cultural development, “but I definitely wasn’t thinking 30 home runs right away.”
[COOPERSTOWN: Frank Thomas always played the numbers game]
Chicago signed Abreu to a six-year, $68 million contract last October with high hopes after he hit 19 home runs in 42 games during a shortened 2013 Cuban regular season.
He lived up to the hype early, earning A.L. Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month honors in April. That month Abreu hit 10 home runs in 29 games and despite a stint on the disabled list in late May, Abreu has continued to produce. He made the AL All-Star team and also earned AL Rookie of the Month honors in June. Including Friday's performance, Abreu has now reached safely in 33 of his last 34 games.
Abreu, 27, finished Friday’s game 2-for-5, extending his hitting streak to 15 games. He’s now batting .292 this season with the major-league leading 30 home runs and 77 runs batted in, the latter of which is good for second in the majors.
When asked how he felt about reaching 30 home runs, Abreu appeared humbled by the accomplishment.
“I am very, very thankful for the things life has given me, and this is one of them,” he said. “So I’m very thankful to be able to do that, and I am also very thankful to all of the people that have helped me one way or another to be able to do this, so, you know, all I can tell you is that I’m proud of it, and as long as we can keep playing good and helping the team, that’ll be great.”
Veteran Adam Dunn said he’s been impressed with the way Abreu has carried himself, both on and off the field this season.
“You knew he was very talented,” Dunn said, “but if you sat here and said he was going to put up the numbers and break the records...I don’t think anyone expected that.
“But am I surprised by it? Not really.”