Abreu says he was close to trainer accused of smuggling

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Jose Abreu. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — White Sox slugger Jose Abreu testified Thursday in Miami that he had an extremely close relationship with a Florida baseball trainer on trial with a sports agent for allegedly smuggling Cuban ballplayers off the island.

Abreu acknowledged giving trainer Julio Estrada $25,000 a month last summer — $10,000 more than he requested — after Estrada’s assets were frozen by the government in the wake of his indictment in the smuggling case. He did so, Abreu testified, ‘‘because of the high esteem I have for him.’’

Abreu, who isn’t accused of wrongdoing, also paid Estrada’s wife an undisclosed amount to help decorate his home in South Florida. He bought a separate $500,000 home in the Florida Keys for Estrada to live in rent-free, and Estrada was the best man at Abreu’s wedding.

‘‘These were people who had helped me a lot in getting into this country, so I had a lot of trust in them,’’ Abreu told a jury.

Estrada and agent Bartolo Hernandez are charged with conspiracy and alien smuggling for allegedly overseeing a network that brought Abreu and other ballplayers out of Cuba by boat to third countries, where they could establish residency and seek lucrative free-agent contracts.

In return, Estrada’s Total Baseball company was to be paid 20 percent of the $68 million contract Abreu signed with the Sox, with Hernandez and two partners getting 5 percent.

Abreu testified he has kept his end of the deal, paying Estrada’s firm more than $7 million since he signed the deal in 2013. He still owes Estrada about $5 million but isn’t sure he will continue paying him, considering Estrada is facing significant prison time if convicted.

‘‘Things have changed,’’ Abreu testified. ‘‘They are different now.’’

Abreu said he now thinks the terms he agreed to with Estrada were unfair.

‘‘Do you feel like you were taken advantage of by Julio’s company?’’ Estrada attorney Sabrina Puglisi said.

‘‘Yes,’’ Abreu replied.

The prosecution part of the case is nearing an end. Abreu finished his second day of testimony, and Sox manager Rick Renteria said he expects him to play in the team’s spring game Friday against the Padres.

Jones OK

Right-hander Nate Jones said he was sore but OK a day after taking a comebacker to the mound off the side of his right knee. Jones had a sizable red mark on the leg but a smile on his face.

‘‘A little sore this morning, but the stability is good, so it’s all good,’’ Jones said. ‘‘[It will] just be sore for a couple of days. Take it easy today [and] get after it tomorrow.’’

Jones is scheduled to leave Monday for Miami for the World Baseball Classic. He said he doesn’t think the leg will be an issue.

Prospect watch

Baseball Prospectus will have the Sox’ farm system sixth in its latest rankings Friday. Baseball America has them fifth and MLBpipeline third. Before their offseason trades of left-hander Chris Sale and outfielder Adam Eaton, the Sox were ranked in the bottom third of the majors overall.

The Sox might not be done climbing in the rankings. Baseball America prospects expert Ben Badler reported the Sox might have an inside track on 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, who is described as a first-round talent.

Contributing: Associated Press

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