White Sox’ Jose Abreu goes to work with personal hitting instructor
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Jose Abreu won his second Silver Slugger Award in 2018, but he wants to be better.
Two health issues cut his season short, just when he was rounding into his customary good form following a sluggish first half. To do everything he can to bring his A game to the White Sox in April, Abreu began working Tuesday in Miami with Marcos Hernandez, a hitting instructor he has hit with off and on since he was 18, most recently in 2016.
“He’s a guy that knows a lot about my hitting, my offense,” Abreu said on a conference call through interpreter Billy Russo. “He’s going to be a big help. You want to be around people who care about you and people that can help you to improve. He’s one of those guys and that’s why I’m [doing] this now.”
Abreu, who said talking to Hernandez after the All-Star break helped last season, said he’ll work on staying inside the ball. He said Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson and assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks are “very good instructors, and I like them a lot.”
“I like the style and how they approach the hitting program, how they talk,” he said. “They are two people that really care about the guys.”
But “hitting wise, I’m going to make some changes,” Abreu said.
“I have a lot of confidence in [Hernandez]. He knows me. There’s a trust there that works very well. I think that’s the best way for me to approach next season because I want to start the season very good, not like last season when I started slow.”
An All-Star in a year in which the class of first basemen in the American League was not deep, Abreu became emotional when he learned about the Silver Slugger, given to the best hitter at his position in his league, last week.
“I started crying, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “It was a very, very difficult season for me. People know how hard I worked day in and day out. I think this was a reward for all the work and effort even though I didn’t have my best season this year. It’s rewarding.”
Abreu led AL first basemen with 36 doubles but recorded career lows in homers (22), RBI (78) and a .265/.325/.473 hitting line during a season in which he was named an All-Star starter for the first time in his five seasons but was limited to a career low 128 games. He had surgery for a testicular torsion and then was sidelined with a thigh infection.
Now entering the last year of his contract with the Sox, Abreu wants to remain with the team for the rest of his career but knows it could be his last. In fact, he already began thanking chairman Jerry Reinsdorf in the event that it will be.
“He’s been an outstanding person to me,” Abreu said. “But I try not to think about that because I truly believe I am going to be part of this organization for a very long time. But we’ll see.
“Everybody knows that 2019 is going to be the last season of my current contract. But I try not to think about that because [I believe] the White Sox are the team I am going to be part of for a very long time. But that’s not in my hands right now.”
Whether Abreu goes or stays depends on what the rebuilding Sox would get in return in a trade.
“That’s the best answer,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said last week.
As Abreu, who turns 32 in January, enters the last of six years under contract with the Sox, most of the offseason buzz surrounding his team is about free agents such as Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, both of whom are long shots to sign with the club even though the Sox have money to spend.
“We’re in a very good position to make some moves,” Abreu said. “I would be really happy and excited and happy to play alongside those big names.”
Stay tuned. In the meantime, keep an ear open for Hot Stove chatter about Abreu. So far, it has been quiet.
“We haven’t shown the hesitancy to move star-type players when the deal made sense for us in the long term of what we were trying to accomplish,” Hahn said, “and it’s only fair with Abreu going into his last season of control there would be that speculation.”
The Sox hold Abreu in high regard for his presence and voice in the clubhouse.
“In how we value him there may be a modest disconnect between us and other clubs,” Hahn said. “All 30 [teams] can put some level of valuation of how he performs and does between the lines, and we put a little extra value on it based on what he does in the clubhouse. Which makes it harder to lock up on a deal, but we’ve shown a willingness to move players like this before.”