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White Sox’ Jose Abreu named 2018 MLB All-Star Game starter

Jose Abreu (pictured hitting a double against the Twins this season) is the first White Sox since Frank Thomas to be voted as an All-Star starter. (AP)

HOUSTON — Jose Abreu has been named as the American League starter at first base for the 2018 All-Star Game.

Abreu, 31, outdistanced the Astros’ Yuli Gurriel for the most votes in fan balloting, which Abreu led wire-to-wire from the first week. He is the first Sox voted as a starter since first baseman Frank Thomas in 1996 but won’t be the first to start in the game. Esteben Loaiza in 2003 and Mark Buehrle in 2005 were starters as pitchers, who are not included in fan balloting.

Abreu entered the Sox’ game against the Astros Sunday with a .259 average, 12 homers, 27 doubles and 50 RBI. He was the first Sox player to lead the ballot at any point in the balloting process since Thomas in 1996.

“I always do my best to represent this team,” Abreu said through a translator. “It’s a really really big honor to wear their colors. When you receive news like this, it’s like a relief.

“It means a lot when you realize how long, all the time that has passed since the last White Sox to start in the All-Star Game. That made this moment even greater.”

Abreu made the team one time previously, in 2014 as a 27-year-old rookie playing his first season on United States soil after coming over from Cuba when was named as a reserve. He is the sixth Sox player (11th time) to be fan-elected as a starter, joining Thomas, Carlton Fisk (1981-82), Richie Zisk (1977), Dick Allen (1972-74) and Luis Aparicio (1970).

The 2018 AL and National League All-Star starters were unveiled on a selection show in ESPN.

Abreu generated fan support with a strong start to the season but had what he called the worst month of his career in June. He was batting .181 with two homers since May 26 going into the game Sunday, and had one hit in his last 19 at-bats. The fans probably recognized Abreu’s body of work over his career as much as anything.

“Yes, I think that’s right,” Abreu said. “I’m glad for all that recognition. It’s no secret my numbers right now are not as good as I want them to be or as good as an All-Star should have. But I’ve been working hard during my whole career, even this year through the last five or six weeks. It hasn’t been easy.”

“I’ve been trying to do my best. When you have recognition like that, it’s special even though I’m passing through a tough time. It’s something you appreciate.”

“It would be fantastic,” manager Rick Renteria said before the game of the expected honor. “In the few years that I’ve been her, he’s one of the guys I truly appreciate to the core. It’s certainly merited for what he’s been able to do. I’d love to see him there.”