After hitting 36 home runs during his rookie season in 2014 and 30 last year, Jose Abreu had 11 through the White Sox’ first 100 games, a far cry from what the Sox expected from their first baseman.
After hitting three homers in April and three in May, Abreu hit five in June but hasn’t gone deep since connecting on a game-tying shot at against the Red Sox’ Junichi Tazawa on June 23 at Fenway Park.
Concerns? Not from the White Sox middle of the order mainstay, who has reached base safely in 44 of his last 47 games.
“I’m not concerned about my home run production,’’ Abreu said Wednesday through translator Billy Russo. “The most important thing for me right now is to be comfortable at home plate and I am. We have two more months, and I know the homers will be there.’’
Abreu is batting .276 with 11 homers and 56 RBI and with 23 doubles is on pace for a career high 36. He is 9-for-21 with three walks in his previous six games before he singled, flied out and struck out for the 84th and 85th times, the last one against new Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of an 8-1 game.
Abreu says he’s never tried to hit a home run in a particular at-bat and isn’t about to “think big” now.
“My approach is very simple,’’ he said. “I try to put the barrel on the ball.’’
Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Frazier is concentrating on being a better overall hitter than a home run hitter, and that’s OK by him. Abreu went through a rough stretch where plate discipline was a big problem.
“Obviously the lack of homers were from issues of struggling and lack of discipline at the plate,’’ Steverson said. “Getting back to being a hitter, when that starts rumbling the way he likes it you may see a couple more homers. His focus is not on hitting homers but about being productive at the plate. And I’m fine with that. Yeah, he’ll hit home runs again.
“I don’t know how many he’s going to hit this year. Obviously it would be more beneficial as a whole as an offense if he could get those four bases a little more often but I don’t think he came in here specifically as a home run hitter.’’
When Todd Frazier was acquired in a trade last off-season, he was supposed to provide the protection Abreu needed, and he has with 29 homers. But Abreu’s shortage of punch one key reason why the Sox, at .500 through Tuesday, are more likely to be sellers than buyers at the trade deadline Monday. Abreu, who wants badly to win, has been hard on himself this year.
Although he could surprise, general manager Rick Hahn isn’t expected to clean house before the deadline but it’s reasonable to expect at least one deal getting made. Frazier, one of many Sox who could help a contending team, has seen former Reds teammates run the gamut on reactions this time of year.
“It’s all rumors, man,’’ Frazier said Wednesday. “I’ve seen guys who don’t tell you straight up, but they want to get out of here. I’ve seen guys cry at their locker after they got traded. … It’s just the way it goes. It’s a crazy business. You never know. They might tell you one thing and then something happens a day later.’’
Abreu knows what’s going on, although he’s on the lower end of the list of expendables, his power issues notwithstanding.
“I would like to stay with my teammates forever,’’ Abreu said. “You have to understand, too, that this is a business and a lot of decisions are made by the front office that are out of your hands. The front office has to do its job and we have a job to do here. I don’t have any power in that.’’