White Sox’ Jose Abreu, Angels’ Albert Pujols share traits
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN Staff Reporter July 2, 2014 9:54PM
Angels superstar Albert Pujols says White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu (above) is a great talent and a nice kid. | Getty Images
Updated: July 3, 2014 2:20AM
With each passing day, with every home run that’s chronicled and packaged into the next historical note or tweet, the expectations for Jose Abreu seem to get a little bit greater.
You wonder if, at some point, the success and the expectations will play with his mind and start to wear him down. Great things are happening to Abreu at breakneck speed in his first season in the majors, not to mention his first months living in the United States, and the expectations that grow with the success can be a lot to handle.
“It’s tough,’’ Angels star Albert Pujols said Wednesday, “not having his whole family here and coming to the States. But hopefully he can continue to do it and stay healthy.’’
Pujols, a career .318 hitter with 509 homers going into the Angels’ game against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, has become something of a fan. Pujols, from the Dominican Republic, and Abreu, from Cuba, spoke on the field for about 10 minutes when the Sox played at Anaheim four weeks ago. Abreu’s level of respect for Pujols was evident during the chat. Pujols’ for Abreu was beginning to take shape.
“He’s a real nice kid,’’ Pujols said. “I like him.’’
Pujols likes what he sees of Abreu’s tools and ability, too. It’s hard not to admire 26 home runs in his first 71 major-league games, the only player in history to do that. Abreu also led the majors with 67 RBI and a .627 slugging percentage despite not hitting a home run the first week and missing two weeks with an ankle injury.
“He has a real nice, short compact swing,’’ Pujols said. “He’s strong enough that he can use the entire field. He doesn’t have to be a pull-happy guy. Look at that ball he hit Tuesday [his 26th homer]. There aren’t too many guys who can hit a ball out of the ballpark like that down the right-field line.’’
Word that Abreu won his second American League Rookie of the Month award drew a sizable media crowd to his locker before the game Wednesday. He batted .313 with 10 homers and 22 RBI, the first Sox player to hit 10 or more homers in a month twice in one season, joining Jim Thome in 2006 and Frank Thomas in 1993.
“In Cuba, we don’t have that many awards,’’ he said through Sox translator Lino Diaz. “That’s probably why I look kind of cold when I get these awards here because we’re not used to that.”
Abreu doesn’t appear as cold as he suggests. He answers questions politely and often with a warm smile.
“No,’’ he said when asked if he expected to do this much this soon. “Only God knows what he has planned for you, and I think he’s got a lot more good things for me.”
Pujols-like things? Sox manager Robin Ventura said it would be unfair to compare the two this soon.
“That’s a lot of expectations to put on him,’’ Ventura said. “But it’s fun. You see the kind of year Jose’s having, and people naturally would compare those two. But the numbers Albert’s put up have been crazy. You’d like Jose to look to follow along that path if it’s possible.’’
“It’s up to him,’’ Pujols said. “It’s going to be about the more he’s around the league, the more adjustments he’s going to have to make. The pitchers are going to adjust, but it’s our job to adjust, too. Myself, 14 years in the league, and I still try to make adjustments every at-bat.’’