White Sox Alejandro DeAza (right) gets congratulated by third base coach Joe McEwing after he hit his second homer of the game in the sixth inning. | Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times
Updated: May 2, 2014 6:34AM
Jose Abreu knows little about what went on around here last season. Doesn’t care much, either.
“That is in the past,’’ Abreu said. “This year is a new year, and this was a good win today.’’
All the budding star from Cuba knows about White Sox baseball is what he saw Monday on Opening Day, a clean 5-3 victory against the Minnesota Twins. Abreu, batting cleanup and playing first base, played a big role in it by hitting rockets his first two times up, one a liner off the right-field fence for a double and the other a line drive to left for an RBI single. Even his outs, on balls hit to center field, were hit hard.
Talk about a clean entry into the major leagues.
It was only one victory, and there are 161 games to be played, but the win represented something of a clean break from 2013, a season the Sox can’t cut away from fast enough. The Sox committed no errors, didn’t run into any silly outs and got timely hitting. In other words, they did a lot of things they couldn’t do last season when they lost 99 games. They couldn’t have scripted a first day any better.
“It’s a big deal because you look at what last year was, and you can wipe that away,’’ manager Robin Ventura said. “You play clean. For me, you take away that you play a clean game: You get the right hit at the right time; you pitch; you’ve got guys taking an extra base on a ball in the dirt. Just that part of it, it’s clean, so you can wipe yourself away from that smell of last year.’’
A sellout crowd also watched left fielder Alejandro De Aza, whose issues on the bases and at times in the field were front and center on the Sox’ bad-baseball mess of 2013, launch two home runs against Ricky Nolasco. They got to see Chris Sale collect a win with 71/3 strong innings. Sale was awarded only 11 wins last year because of poor support.
“We had [offensive potential] last year, too; it was just a matter of getting it done,’’ Sale said. “It’s still Game 1. We’re not going to jump the gun or anything, but obviously starting off on the right foot is always nice, and we’ll build momentum for the rest of the season.’’
Signed for $68 million over six years as a free agent, Abreu should give the lineup a needed jolt.
“Those at-bats are professional at-bats,’’ Ventura said.
“I think a lot can be put on his shoulders. But, again, he can’t do it by himself. I think that’s the biggest thing about him. As good as he is, he’s professional enough to know that he stays within himself to do what makes him good.’’
Abreu has been poised and focused since even before his first day of spring training, and he stayed relatively calm through the opening ceremonies, aside from wiping a tear away while thinking about his mother. Abreu said team captain Paul Konerko, who did not start on Opening Day for the first time in 16 years, gave him moral support throughout the game.
The passing of the baton came with a pat on the back.
“Paulie congratulated me every time I made a good play or hit the ball, and that’s something I’m very thankful for,’’ Abreu said.
Turns out Konerko, who did not play, had a busy day after all.