Jose Abreu still striving to break language barrier

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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Jose Abreu sat down for his first group interview session of 2016 after the White Sox’ first full-squad workout and, as usual, he used team translator Billy Russo to communicate with most of his audience. But Abreu hopes that will change.

The White Sox star from Cuba, entering his third year after two excellent seasons, said his goal is to do interviews without a translator. Abreu and wife Yusmary, who he married after the 2015 season, are learning the language slowly but surely.

Abreu knows speaking English is a necessary leadership tool, which he desires. In the meantime, having a bilingual coach like Rick Renteria around helps him communicate with coaches and teammates alike.

“For us, it’s something very important,” Abreu said. “It’s special to have that kind of guy in the coaching staff because you feel more comfortable when you have to communicate with them. That’s very good for us and very important.’’

Renteria replaced Mark Parent as bench coach this winter.

“That’s going to be something that could help us to get better this year. He’s a very good coach, a great person. From the first moment that I met him, that was my feeling. Now I’ve been able to be with him these couple of days, he’s a very good guy and we need that.”

Abreu, who was one of the first early arrivals to camp, continues to work hard. During live batting practice, Abreu shook off the effects of a sore left hand but kept swinging.

“He probably works too much, takes too many swings and does too much work this early,’’ manager Robin Ventura said after Tuesday’s workout.

Abreu did take the day “off” Monday.

“We’re having to slow him down a little bit just to time it up more with Opening Day,” Ventura said.

The team’s the thing

Ventura’s team speech was about keeping the team first.

“It’s about the team, what we expect, what I expect from them,” he said. They should expect it from themselves. There should be a standard that we have and they should enforce that themselves as well. We’ll be there to do it, but we’ve set our own standard with how they should be playing every day.”

Last season “was sloppy for me,” Ventura said. “It [wasn’t] always easy to watch. Now you bring new guys in, you want them to understand the level we want to play at.”

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