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Jose Abreu shows no sign of slowing down

TORONTO CANADA - JUNE 29: Jose Abreu #62 Chicago White Sox hits an RBI single third inning during MLB game

TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 29: Jose Abreu #62 of the Chicago White Sox hits an RBI single in the third inning during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 29, 2014 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 477585791

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Updated: June 30, 2014 11:28AM



TORONTO — It might take awhile for the White Sox to be good again. You can be sure Jose Abreu hopes it won’t be long.

The offensive centerpiece in the Sox’ retooling plan, Abreu isn’t used to being on losing teams. So his patience might be tested while management tries to build a team that is good for years to come.

‘‘He likes to win, man,’’ Cuban-born catcher Adrian Nieto said. ‘‘He said he doesn’t like to lose. The Cuban teams he was on were always winning teams.’’

From the way he prepares, studies and works, it became obvious early on that Abreu, 27, wants to be great. On days when the Sox aren’t great, he doesn’t look around the room; he looks in the mirror.

‘‘When we lose, he feels like he didn’t do enough, so he puts a lot of pressure on himself,’’ Nieto said. ‘‘I try to tell him, ‘Hey, it’s everybody, not just you.’ ’’

Abreu wouldn’t be the first person to change after becoming a star, but success isn’t new to him. Teammates respect his modesty despite what hitting coach Todd Steverson calls ‘‘the magnitude of what he’s created for himself.’’

‘‘You have this many homers [25] before the [All-Star] break and so much fanfare and publicity,’’ Steverson said. ‘‘People want to see him. You’re not going to go get popcorn when he’s coming up, that’s for sure. When he gets his name called out, you want to watch and see what happens. And that’s the same for everyone on the bench, including myself.’’

Abreu drove in the first run of the Sox’ 4-0 victory Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays with a single to left against Mark Buehrle in the third inning. The hit extended his hitting streak to 14 games, the
second-longest in the majors.

Despite not hitting a home run during the first week of the season and missing two weeks on the disabled list, Abreu is on pace to equal the Sox’ record of 49 homers set by Albert Belle in 1998. The major-league rookie record of 49 homers was set by Mark McGwire in 1987. Paul Konerko predicted in spring training that Abreu, who is batting .279, would hit for average, too. He said this week that Abreu’s batting average will climb as his strikeouts decrease and his walks increase.

Steverson said Abreu’s strikeouts stem from eagerness.

‘‘He has the ability to take more walks and to cut down his strikeouts,’’ Steverson said.

At the midpoint of the season, the buzz surrounding Abreu, who leads the American League in slugging percentage, hasn’t let up. But Adam Dunn, a 14-year veteran who has hit 452 homers, cautioned about going overboard on the hype. He has seen players break in with a splash, only to fizzle.

‘‘A bunch of them,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘But what he’s doing and the way he’s going about it, I don’t think he’s one of those guys. The impressive thing is how he handles the good and the bad. That’s going to keep him around for a while.’’

So will how Abreu responds as pitchers play the adjustment game with him.

‘‘That’s going to be the fun part to watch,’’ Dunn said. ‘‘Not only how much better he gets, but how he responds to the little cat-and-mouse games with pitchers.

‘‘You’re never out of the woods. Teams build up their information on you, and you develop kind of a pattern. There will be something; there will be a hiccup. But a guy like him, it won’t be a prolonged slump because his approach is what everyone’s should be.’’

Email: dvanschouwen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @CST_soxvan



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