Jose Abreu’s early success for White Sox only hiking expectations
BY BRIAN SANDALOW For Sun-Times Media April 12, 2014 12:58AM
Updated: May 14, 2014 6:47AM
Manager Robin Ventura was asked before Friday’s game whether he’d seen a White Sox player burst onto the scene the way Jose Abreu has. He paused for an instant and smirked.
‘‘Yeah, they had Frank Thomas here. He was pretty good,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘He made the Hall of Fame and everything. So, he’s pretty good.’’
True, Thomas was pretty good — the two MVP awards and 521 home runs prove that. But Ventura probably forgot that in Thomas’ first 10 games in 1990, he hit no homers, drove in four runs and batted only .273.
Abreu has blown by that and pretty much any other start in Sox history. In his first 12 games, he had four homers and 14 RBI. On Thursday, he became the first Sox player since Ron Kittle in 1983 to drive in 14 runs over the first 10 games of a season. His start has been so hot that the Sox put in Friday’s game notes that he was on pace for 65 home runs and 227 RBI.
There’s no way Abreu hits those totals, but it would be surprising if he didn’t continue to produce. And with that productivity will come even more of a glare, not that he seems too worried about that.
‘‘The only success and expectations that I care about is the team success,’’ Abreu said through a translator. ‘‘It’s not about my own personal success — it’s about the team success. Whatever I can do to help the team win games or succeed, that’s all that really matters as far as expectations and being successful.’’
As he continues to develop and hit, those expectations will only increase. With Paul Konerko playing his last season, the Sox are losing the face of the franchise and their leading slugger since Thomas’ departure after the 2005 World Series.
The next power hitter in line looks to be Abreu, though another former Sox star doesn’t want too much put on Abreu too soon.
‘‘Just let him play,’’ assistant hitting coach Harold Baines said. ‘‘I don’t believe in putting labels on guys. Just let the kid play. That’s what happens to a lot of players — people start putting labels on players, so let it play out for a year and then maybe you can talk about it.’’
Of course, Abreu’s torrid start has led to mentions of Thomas and Kittle, visions of a long career of home runs and RBI and talk of the Sox not having to worry about first base for the next decade.
Like Baines, Ventura wants that to slow down. Just let Abreu play.
‘‘Again, this is early, but he’s good — that’s just part of who he is,’’ Ventura said. ‘‘The age that he’s at right now coming over  . . . you are not looking at a 19-year-old kid coming over here and crossing your fingers and hoping that he’s good.
‘‘He’s played against good competition before and proving it right now that he belongs in this league.’’
Abreu was intentionally walked twice in the second game of his career, had two multihomer games in a three-game span and is the first rookie in Sox history with two games of four-plus-RBI in his first eight. Feats like that will bring attention. His concern, however, seems to be elsewhere.
‘‘You work so hard during spring training — you work so hard with your teammates and the people that support you,” he said. ‘‘The only hope is that I can keep working hard and keep doing what I’m doing and not worry about those other things and just have the support of my teammates and keep having the success that we’re having.’’