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Konerko admires Jose Abreu, wants to see him in Home Run Derby

Updated: July 27, 2014 8:27AM

BALTIMORE — Paul Konerko is a fan. The White Sox’ No. 2 all-time home-run hitter has enjoyed watching Jose Abreu’s homer binge as much as anyone from his up-close perch in the dugout.

Konerko watched Abreu hit the 23rd homer of his first season in the major leagues in the fourth inning of the Sox’ rain-delayed game Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles, a blast that made the 27-year-old Cuban the first in baseball history to hit 23 or more in his first 65 games. Wally Berger (1930) and Mark McGwire (1986-87) each hit 22 through 65 games.

Abreu has hit his share of bullets — like this one at Camden Yards — that have left the field in a hurry. He also has hit 14 that have carried 400 feet or more, including a 443-footer May 9 against Arizona’s Trevor Cahill at U.S. Cellular Field.

“They just carry,’’ Konerko said. “You see guys who hit the ball, and it jumps off the bat. Some guys hit them where the velocity of the ball is really fast. His don’t always look like that. His almost look lazy, and they keep going and going and going and going like a drive off a tee that keeps going.’’

The homer put Abreu in a tie for second in the American League, but Nelson Cruz bumped him back down to third with a grand slam against Javy Guerra in the eighth inning that erased a 4-0 lead. The homer ruined the best start of the season for Sox right-hander Hector Noesi, who left after giving up two singles to start the inning. Scott Downs’ walk of Chris Davis loaded the bases for Cruz.

The Sox fell 5-4 in 12 innings.

Abreu, who also singled in the eighth, hiked his RBI total to 61.

“He’s going to keep getting better and hit for a better average as his strikeouts go down and his walks go up,’’ Konerko predicted.

“He gets a lot of power from his natural swing, but he gets it out of there with his lower half, where some guys just have like a whip. His is not like that. His is like he catches it on the bat. He always has enough. It looks like it’s not going to get there, and it just keeps going.’’

Abreu reiterated Wednesday that he’d rather not participate in the Home Run Derby during All-Star week. Konerko said he’d love to see him do it.

“I did it one time [in 2002] and had a blast with it,’’ Konerko said. “It was fun. It was definitely draining and physically taxing, but I didn’t sense that swing-wise it affected anything. It’s kind of a fun thing, and you don’t put much stock in it. But I felt it for a couple of days.’’

Abreu said he doesn’t try to hit home runs and would be concerned that the contest would get him out of his normal approach. He participated in five home-run contests in Cuba.

“My priority is to play for the team,’’ Abreu said. “If this is something I have to do, I’ll do it.”

Having Abreu participate would be good for the Sox’ brand and for some publicity, but Sox management isn’t expected to pressure him into doing it.

The players? That might be another matter.

“I speak for everybody, we’d like to see him do it,’’ Konerko said. “And, yeah, it’s good for the team. I can understand not wanting to travel if he’s not in the [All-Star] game, but if he’s in the game as he deserves to be, it would be great to see where he can hit some balls. To show the other guys in the league that he’s right there with them as far as power.’’


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