On historic day, Jose Abreu pays tribute to Minoso, Oliva, too

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins great Tony Oliva and White Sox slugger Jose Abreu stood near the batting cage Friday, talking baseball but mostly talking about family and life.

Oliva, an eight-time All-Star who won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1964 — 50 years before Abreu, his fellow countryman, won it in 2014 — is one of many Cuban greats Abreu holds in high regard.

“Every time I come to Minnesota, I look for him to show my respect to him,” Abreu said through a translator Saturday. “He was an outstanding player, and I respect him a lot, not only as a player but a person. Everyone in Cuba knows about him and respects him.”

On Jackie Robinson Day, when every player in baseball wore his retired No. 42 to honor the Brooklyn Dodgers great who broke the color barrier 70 years ago, Abreu also was mindful of White Sox star and fellow Cuban Minnie Minoso, the first black player in franchise history. Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda called Minoso “the Jackie Robinson of Latino players.”

Tony Oliva (left) and fellow Cuban Jose Abreu chat before the White Sox and Twins game Friday. (Photo by Daryl Van Schouwen)

“They were the ones who opened the door for us [Cubans],” Abreu said of players such as Minoso, Luis Tiant, Tony Perez and Oliva. “They showed us what was possible for us to do here. They showed us if you work hard, you can have success. For me, all of that started with Minnie. He was a big influence for us in Cuba. He was a pioneer.”

As was Robinson. Second-year Sox shortstop Tim Anderson wore 42 for the first time.

“I appreciated it. It was huge,’’ he said. “He paved the way, opened the door for African-Americans. It’s a blessing to step on the field and wear that number.’’

May back in the lineup

Jacob May returned to the lineup after getting three days off and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a soft grounder to first against Ervin Santana — who pitched a one-hit shutout. After winning the job as the Opening Day center fielder, May is 0-for-17 with eight strikeouts.

Avisail in the 2-hole

The historic all-Garcia outfield that happened Friday didn’t happen again Saturday with May back. Leury Garcia was in left field with Willy Garcia out. Melky Cabrera is on paternity leave until Monday.

Avisail Garcia, who went into the game with an American League-best .457 average, batted second for the fifth time in his career and went 0-for-3 with a walk. Garcia’s 16 hits were the most by a Sox player through the first nine games of a season since Frank Thomas had 18 in 2000.

“He’s swinging the bat well and having good approaches,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. “He slotted in [the 2-hole] pretty well.’’

Frazier exits early

Todd Frazier, who missed games in Cleveland on Wednesday and Thursday with flu-like symptoms, played Friday but left in the fourth inning Saturday with a recurrence of the same issue. Frazier went 0-for-2 and is 3-for-27 with one homer.

Frazier was replaced by Matt Davidson, who didn’t start despite having homered in the previous two games. With three lefties facing the Sox in a span of four games, Renteria started left-handed-hitting Cody Asche, who played first base with Abreu at DH.

Asche, who was 5-for-15 lifetime against Santana, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout.

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