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Sox slugger Jose Abreu’s HR in 1st inning may be sign he’s breaking out of slump

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jose Abreu walked through the White Sox’ clubhouse Monday afternoon with his head held high and with a hello for everybody he saw.

Abreu might be in what hitting coach Todd Steverson characterized as the longest dry spell of his accomplished major-league tenure, but the All-Star looked far from defeated.

Call it a sign that good things were ahead.

Abreu hit a home run in the first inning against Angels right-hander Jaime Barria, only his second since June 28.

Jose Abreu hits a solo home run in the first inning against the Angels on Monday in Anaheim, Calif. | Kyusung Gong/AP

Heading into the series opener against the Angels, Abreu was carrying a .313 slugging percentage going back to June 2. In his previous 15 games, he had only six hits in 51 at-bats (.118). And in his previous 48 games, going back to May 27, he was batting only .177 (32-for-181).

He was still named an American League All-Star starter during his downturn, but the biggest reason for what appeared to be a healthy dose of optimism was probably because of his disposition.

“He’s good,” Steverson insisted. “Like anybody else, he’s human, and he’s going to get frustrated because he wants to do something. He is very stubborn to that level where he expects a lot out of himself. I don’t disagree with him. That’s the way he came in, and that’s the way he’s going to be.”

Steverson saw the little things in Seattle that indicated an imminent breakthrough for Abreu. It might have been because he remains as optimistic as the steady hitter he’s trying to help get back on track.

Abreu had only one hit in 12 at-bats against the Mariners over the weekend, but Steverson saw something in that single up the middle. Manager Rick Renteria might have seen something, too, but mostly he used the occasion for a bit of levity.

“Actually, most people probably didn’t see me getting excited,” Renteria said. “I even asked for the ball after the base hit to center for him.”

In reality, Renteria wanted Abreu to laugh a bit, just in case he was fretting on the inside while smiling all the while.

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“I think sometimes he puts a little more on his plate; he wants to carry us a little bit more,” Renteria said. “And he’s never lost confidence. It’s just a matter of, honestly, getting good pitches to hit, staying in his zone, continuing to trust the things he’s capable of doing and the things he has done over a long period of time in his career.”

Steverson admitted that there was a two-week stretch — perhaps it extended to three weeks — during which Abreu looked nothing like himself. But he insisted that Abreu has shown a much different look now that the second half has started.

One sign was a walk Saturday in which Abreu got ahead in the count before taking his free pass. Could it really be that simple?

Abreu walked back to the dugout after crossing the plate following his first at-bat Monday with his head held high and a high-five for everybody he saw.

“We talk about, ‘If you’ve done it before, you can do it again,’ ” Steverson said. “And it’s just a matter of clearing your brain, setting that reset button. It can take just one hit to start something or one good barrel to remember something.”