Jose Abreu deal looking even better for White Sox
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter January 18, 2014 12:58AM
‘‘He’s a serious hitter who goes up there with a plan and certainly has a great deal of ability. It’s going to be fun to see how this plays out over the next couple of years.’’ — Rick Hahn, White Sox general manager, on Jose Abreu
Updated: February 20, 2014 6:49AM
So far, no buyer’s remorse for the White Sox.
After plunking down $68 million on a six-year contract for power-hitting Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu in October, the Sox remain tickled with their purchase. In fact, after seeing Abreu in the flesh again at a minicamp for hitters at the Sox spring training base in Glendale, Ariz., the Sox braintrust may have suppressed a grin or two.
‘‘He actually looked better than what I thought he was going to,’’ first-year hitting coach Todd Steverson said Friday. ‘‘As [general manager] Rick [Hahn] has stated, he is a very serious hitter. He has a plan, he has an idea of how he wants to go about everything he does. He’s pretty meticulous. He is a very strong man. He’s not the kind of guy who will flat whip the bat around, like Gary Sheffield bat speed or anything like that, but when he barrels up a baseball, it takes off.’’
The ‘‘getting to know you’’ three-day minicamp for about 15 hitters included Abreu and offseason acquisitions Matt Davidson and Adam Eaton, catcher Josh Phegley and prospects Marcus Semien, Courtney Hawkins, Jared Mitchell, Trayce Thompson and Keenyn Walker.
But Abreu was the star attraction, a part the Sox hope he assumes before too long as the team’s every-day first baseman and a force in the middle of the lineup.
‘‘Just watching Jose go through his work, the professionalism and the plus-plus power on display in his first couple rounds, he’s a serious hitter who goes up there with a plan and certainly has a great deal of ability,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘It’s going to be fun to see how this plays out over the next couple of years.’’
The 6-2, 250-pounder, who grips the knob of his bat in the palm of his hand, has big power but an easy swing. He summarized his approach as simply ‘‘trying to have a quality at-bat.’’ He also possesses a desire to use a good portion of the field, which Steverson likes to see.
‘‘That’s a strong man right there,’’ Steverson said. ‘‘That’s a big man. He has a nice, smooth, compact approach. He didn’t try to do too much with the ball, and the ball was flying off his bat. He has a nice, bright future.
‘‘His attack is compact, and he has some thunder in the bat head. It’s just [batting practice] and some drills in the cage, but as far as that goes, I’m very pleased with what he came in looking like.’’
Abreu revealed that he will begin to use batting gloves in the majors and that he’ll return to Glendale on Feb. 3, well ahead of the Sox’ first full spring-training workout Feb. 20.
‘‘I wouldn’t say I’m anxious, but I want to start,’’ said Abreu, who turns 27 on Jan. 29. ‘‘I want to get it going. That’s why I’m going to come back in on Feb. 3 and get it going here.’’
Davidson, a power-hitting former first-round draft choice of the Arizona Diamondbacks who recently was ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the D-backs system, was acquired in a trade for closer Addison Reed. The Sox paid a significant price for him, and the third-base job appears to be his to lose in spring training. He turns 23 in March.
The 5-8, 185-pound Eaton, 25, likely will start the season in center field and lead off.
‘‘I’ve seen him in his minor-league days,’’ said Steverson, the Oakland Athletics’ minor-league hitting coordinator and a minor-league manager before taking his first job as a major-league hitting coach. ‘‘He has a real simple approach, but he’s kind of a pest. He can take you the other way, drive it up the middle or pull you for a homer. He knows how to bunt — he has the whole game. He’s a solid player.’’