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Jose Abreu hits first home run; White Sox split-squad falls to Mariners

Updated: March 6, 2014 8:37PM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu hit his first home run of the spring on Thursday, an opposite-field blast to right field against Royals right-hander Brad Penny in the fifth inning of a split-squad game in Surprise, Ariz.

The homer followed a double by right fielder Avisail Garcia.

“It was a fastball outside, and I was able to put a very good swing on it,’’ Abreu said. “It was my best contact of the spring so far.’’

Making contact hasn’t been an issue for Abreu, the Cuban free agent who signed a six-year, $68 million contract during the offseason. He has had solid at-bats and still hasn’t struck out. He doubled to right-center field to drive in two runs against the Indians on Tuesday and is 2-for-10 with four RBI in four games.

“I hit [home runs] all over the field,’’ Abreu said. “I hit it well to all parts of the field. It was an outside pitch, so I hit it that way.’’

Asked if he feels more relaxed now that he has his first homer out of the way, Abreu said, “It will be the same. The toughest game of spring training was my first one. After that, it will be the same tomorrow, all spring. I don’t get too stressed or uptight.’’

First impressions

Left-hander John Danks said he liked the way catcher Adrian Nieto set up low, and manager Robin Ventura also liked what he saw of the Rule 5 pick, who hasn’t played above Class A.

“I like the way he looks behind the plate,’’ Ventura said. “He has kind of a little sidesaddle that’s different, but a good energy. He interacts with the pitcher and things like that. He looks good. It’s fun to watch him catch.’’

A switch hitter, Nieto went 0-for-3 with an RBI on a force out against the Mariners.

“He looks a little better left-handed right now than he does right-handed,’’ Ventura said.

The other Danks

Jordan Danks, who homered in the ninth inning against the Royals’ Kelvin Herrera, already has three extra-base hits. The Sox’ outfield looks crowded with Garcia, Adam Eaton, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo, but Danks — who plays good defense — is doing what he can to stay on the radar.

“I used to get a little discouraged, but now I’m just going out there, playing to the best of my ability and trying to make a decision hard for them,’’ Danks said. “You leave it all on the field and hope it’s enough.’’

No closer to a closer

Because of injuries (Matt Lindstrom, Nate Jones) and visa problems (Ronald Belisario), Mitchell Boggs, who failed when given a shot to close for the Cardinals after a successful three-year stint as a setup man, is the closest thing to a proven ninth-inning guy the Sox have had on the field. Boggs gave up two runs, two hits and a walk against the Mariners.

“You try to figure that out when they get healthy and they start throwing,’’ Ventura said.


Twitter: @CST_soxvan

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