KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox had 19 games left on the schedule, and in the big scheme of things, they don’t mean much for a team in rebuild mode that’s trying to avoid 100 losses.
But for one that had lost five in a row going into the first game of a nine-game trip, it was good to have Jose Abreu back after a 19-day absence.
Abreu: All-Star, good hitter, power threat, solid citizen and leader in the clubhouse.
“We all know what kind of hitter he is,’’ said catcher Omar Narvaez, the Sox’ designated hitter Monday who, in Abreu’s absence, found himself batting third and fifth in the lineup. “It’s good to have him back because sometimes you feel pressure with men on base. We’re trying to do our best. But with him in the lineup, we get a new lift because we know he will drive those runs in.’’
There is also that leadership aspect. For a young team, having Abreu, 31, around is worth something that’s difficult to measure but certainly has value. Everyone from players to manager Rick Renteria to general manager Rick Hahn have touted Abreu for that.
“He’s our leader,’’ Narvaez said. “The way he plays and in the way he conducts himself.’’
And that’s it in a nutshell. The intangibles Abreu offers to the Sox will be taken into consideration by Hahn in the offseason after Abreu has completed the fifth of six years on his contract. It says here the club, barring a “can’t say no to that” trade offer from another club, will have Abreu back for a season in which they won’t be expected to contend.
“I would say his value is huge,’’ said center fielder Adam Engel, 26, who’s in his second season.
“He’s one of our best players and he’s been around awhile, and he goes about his business the right way. He’s somebody we all look up to and learn from. Not having him in the clubhouse affects the team.
“He’s a quiet guy, but when he does speak up, we all listen and take note when he does.’’
Abreu, who went on the disabled list Aug. 22 after surgery to relieve a testicular torsion, was in a good mood before the game. He had played 145, 154, 159 and 156 games his first four seasons, and this was his longest time away ever.
“I feel very good, and I checked all the boxes that the doctors said I needed to check,’’ he said.
“The toughest part was not being with the team, not being with the guys in the clubhouse or on the field. I had goals for the season that I won’t be able to accomplish now. At the same time, I had the opportunity to spend time with my wife and [10-month-old son]. So it was sweet and sour at the same time.’’
Abreu, who had three singles in four at-bats, needs three homers to become the ninth player to hit 25 in his first five seasons. Before going on the DL, he was on pace for 29 homers and 102 RBI for a fifth consecutive season of at least 25 homers and 100 RBI to begin his career.
Without a minor-league rehab stint, timing figured to be a challenge, but Abreu singled softly to center against Royals right-hander Jakob Junis in the first inning. He did face rehabbing right-hander Nate Jones in live batting practice Saturday, though, and said it didn’t go so well.
“He was nasty,” Abreu said.
The same could be said for Abreu’s health ordeal.
“The way I look at it now is, that was another test, another challenge in life,’’ he said.
“I had to face it, I did and I feel stronger. And I’m just grateful for all the people who helped me through that process, through the recovery and helped me to come back.’’