DETROIT — Yoan Moncada offered another reminder on his 23rd birthday of why it’s good to have Jose Abreu around.
“He’s always giving me advice on what to do, what not to do,’’ Moncada said Sunday of Abreu, 31, his countryman and the White Sox’ top star. ‘‘About baseball and off the field. And that’s important. I’m a young guy, and he’s a veteran. He knows better.”
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Also good about Abreu: his offense. Even after he and Moncada combined to go 0-for-8 in the Tigers’ 3-2 victory Sunday at Comerica Park, Abreu was still making a run at player-of-the-month honors, boasting a .365 average with 15 doubles, three home runs and 18 RBI in May. His 15 doubles this month are the most in May in club history, and his 19 two-baggers lead the majors.
Abreu’s consistency at the plate is something Moncada has marveled at as he tries to make his mark as a major-league hitter in his first full season. Moncada, who struck out three times, is batting .247 with seven homers, 19 RBI and four stolen bases in 41 games.
He wants and expects more.
“Things probably haven’t unfolded completely as I’ve wanted to or as I know I can do it,’’ he said, “but it’s part of the process. I have to be patient. I know I have more to show, to put on display.’’
Moncada has a patient approach, a good hitting eye for a young player and 19 walks as a consequence. He also has struck out 64 times, something he says he won’t beat himself up over.
“I’m not real concerned about the strikeouts, especially this being my first full year in the majors,’’ he said. “I don’t want to worry about that now. I’ll focus more next year on correcting that aspect, but for now I just want to think about being better all around.’’
That would include his defense, as well. While Moncada relies on his athleticism to carry him defensively, the coaching staff stays after him to “have a sense of urgency getting rid of the ball and making sure his feet continue to move,’’ manager Rick Renteria said.
“He looks more and more comfortable out there, and he’s going to get better,’’ Renteria said. “He can make the spectacular play. As he understands how important those fundamentals are, he’s going to be a really good second baseman.’’
Abreu, a tireless worker, will do what he can to help Moncada tap his considerable potential. As a fellow Cuban whom Moncada looked up to as a kid, playing on the same side of the diamond, he seems like just the right guy.
“I like to help people,’’ Abreu said. “I like to see players get better and develop. If I can show them how to work or give advice, that’s a way I can help contribute.
“In Yoan’s case, we need to be patient. He’s young, and he has a lot of talent. Sometimes those processes take longer than others.’’
Moncada, whose hitting from the right side needs to catch up to his left side, was not alone in struggling against Tigers lefty Blaine Hardy, who stifled the Sox on three hits, allowing one walk and striking out a career-high six.
James Shields allowed three runs in seven innings, giving up three or fewer for the seventh time and working at least six innings for the seventh consecutive time. In six starts this month, Shields has a 3.38 ERA while allowing only two homers and a .171 batting average against. He has 30 strikeouts and 13 walks in May.
“My goal coming into the season was just to go as deep as I possibly can, no matter how many runs I give up,’’ Shields said. “Minimize my pitches and save that bullpen. It’s been good so far.’’