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Jose Abreu eyes return for final weeks of White Sox’ season

The odd thing about White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu’s absence is that he hasn’t really been missed.

Check that. Abreu is one of the most respected players in the Sox’ clubhouse, as well as a team leader and their Clemente Award nominee as the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, community involvement and contribution to his team. But since he has been sidelined after having surgery to repair a testicular torsion Aug. 21, the Sox are 9-6 after their 8-3 loss Tuesday to the Tigers.

Good pitching will do that for you.

The Sox are playing their best baseball of the season, in large part because of the starting pitching they’ve been getting the last couple of weeks. Through Monday, Sox pitchers had a 2.75 ERA — the best in the American League — in the last 11 games. Their starters were at 2.01 during that span, but the run of good pitching came to a halt when Lucas Giolito allowed five runs (four earned) in the second inning and was pulled after getting only four outs Tuesday.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria, right, talks with Jose Abreu in the dugout during a rain delay before a baseball game against the Cubs, Saturday, May 12, 2018, in Chicago. (AP)

The Sox also have been scoring runs. Through Monday, they had averaged 5.2 in their last 20 games by hitting .273 with 27 home runs and a .460 slugging percentage.

When he went down, Abreu (.272 average, 22 homers, 78 RBI, .491 slugging percentage) was swinging the bat well and putting a 17-for-108 slump going into the All-Star break behind him. He was hitting as though he might challenge the 25-homer, 100-RBI markers that put him in a class with Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols as the only three players to do that in each of their first four seasons.

‘‘I would like to be able to reach those numbers, to keep posting those numbers,’’ Abreu said through a translator. ‘‘Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to do it. But I’m just glad and thankful to God because I’m healthy, and that’s what’s important.

‘‘Maybe the numbers and stats won’t be there, the ones that I wanted to get when the season started. But I will be able to help the team and help the young guys to finish the season strong.’’

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Abreu said the health issue blindsided him.

‘‘Those are the sort of things you never think about, and then when that happens, you realize, ‘Oh, things happen.’ I’m just thankful everything is good.

‘‘One of my testicles turned sideways and was strangled. The doctor had to perform emergency surgery to save it. I never thought about it, but it was serious. The doctors did a very good job, and everything is good. They saved the testicle. I’m very glad and thankful for all the people who were there for me. I feel very grateful.’’

Abreu took part in cardio activity for a second consecutive day and was cleared for light activity, he said. Always one to play hurt, he said he thinks he can play this weekend. But manager Rick Renteria and general manager Rick Hahn have indicated another week or so is more likely.

‘‘He probably wanted to play today,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘It is my job to make sure that once he does get out on the field, he is completely healed and capable of doing what is necessary for him to help us win a ballgame.’’

Before he was able to get to the ballpark, Abreu watched every Sox game on TV. It drove him crazy because he couldn’t do anything to help the team from the couch.

Soon enough, however, he’ll be able to contribute again.

‘‘I want to play,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘In the meantime, I want to contribute by helping the young guys to try to finish the season as strong as possible.’’