Jose Abreu in manager’s corner
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Abreu has traditionally been an early arrival to spring training, a worker bee whose serious attention to detail and his hitting craft says “come early, stay late.”
This year, Abreu started on time. Not that he hasn’t been working — he worked out hard at home during the offseason, getting his large frame in shape for his fourth major-league season. It’s just that, at 30, Abreu seems to be seeing the good in making sure there’s enough in the tank to get through a 162-game season.
On Sunday, in his first meeting with reporters at spring training, he seemed resigned to the fact that getting off his feet more often and being a designated hitter more might be in his best interest.
Manager Rick Renteria believes it will be, and Abreu, speaking highly of the new skipper’s communication and leadership skills, fell in line behind Renteria’s stated desire to see him at DH more often this season.
“Everyone knows we are here to play,’’ Abreu said. “I don’t like to be a DH, but in a season as long as the major-league season is, there are some days you need to be a DH or you need to take a rest. I’m good with that. Rick is the boss, and we have to follow his lead.”
Renteria is planning to rotate the DH spot, with corner infielder Matt Davidson, outfielder Avisail Garcia, Abreu and perhaps others mixing in the realm of possibilities. Todd Frazier might see more time at first base, with Tyler Saladino more than capable defensively at third.
Renteria knows Abreu doesn’t like to DH. He’s also confident in his own assessment of what’s best for Abreu and the team overall. So Abreu will DH some.
“Absolutely,’’ Renteria said. “Not only him, but there are probably three or four guys. We are going to use that slot . . . when it accommodates a particular need for us.
“These guys want to grind and play through a lot of things, which we are very happy they do, but I have to be able to use my own common sense and my eyes and my conversations with our staff to see what it is we can alleviate these guys from actually being out there on both sides of the ball at times.’’
Abreu started by saying he’s impressed with the young talent in camp.
“The atmosphere is good,’’ he said. “I’m impressed with the kind of communication Rick is having with the players and coaching staff. That’s something that really impacted me first. That’s good for us.’’
As you’d expect, Abreu likes having a boss who speaks his language.
“That’s direct communication between us, and that’s very, very good,’’ he said.
Abreu struggled, by his standards, through the first four months of 2016, then rallied to finish with a .293 average, 25 home runs and 100 RBI. He hit .362 with 18 RBI in August and .316 with 26 RBI in the last month.
“Yes, those were different challenges, especially in my mind,’’ he said of the first four months. “I never in my life experienced some kind of struggles like I did last year. But that put me in a better position as a player, as a person, too. I’m in a better position now for this season because I learned from the experience.’’
When the season was over, Abreu said he held a meeting at his house with his family to “explain to them how the season was.”
“Sometimes they can’t register how the process is in a long major-league season,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘I explained the challenges, the problems. Once the meeting was over, last season was in the past.’’
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.