White Sox’ Jose Abreu to Yoan Moncada: Be more aggressive
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BOSTON — White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu says he knows which switch second baseman Yoan Moncada needs to flip.
Abreu, the Sox’ leader and a mentor to his young Cuban countryman, has seen Moncada’s strikeouts pile up at a rather jarring rate and said the solution is fairly cut-and-dried.
‘‘Right now, I’m advising him to be more aggressive,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘Figure out the way people are attacking him. Just be more aggressive. I passed through that in 2016, too. I was being a little passive at home plate. I finally figured it out. Sometimes you get — I wouldn’t say too comfortable, but passive. Then you need to figure it out.’’
Moncada went into the series finale Sunday against the Red Sox batting .233 with eight home runs and 22 RBI. His talent is obvious, but he also turned only 22 in May, giving pause to many who see 84 strikeouts in 241 plate appearances in a player’s first full season and declare him a bust.
‘‘It’s easy to jump ship on a guy,’’ said Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson, who isn’t jumping. ‘‘Everybody says he is this or he is that. It happens to a lot of players where people say, ‘Aw, he’s not this,’ and he turns out to be an All-Star.
‘‘The man can strike the ball out of the ballpark to left, center or right from both sides of the plate. He’s strong as all get-out. He can run, catch and throw, he has power and can hit for average and has a good [batting] eye.’’
‘‘Athletically gifted,’’ Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters last week. ‘‘It’s unreal what he can do on the field.’’
Sox manager Rick Renteria, sensing that Moncada might be pressing a bit, said he talked with him Sunday morning. After batting Moncada sixth against tough left-handed starters in the first two games of the series, Renteria led him off against right-hander Rick Porcello.
‘‘We told him he’s just got to be himself,’’ Renteria said.
Moncada apparently took Abreu’s advice, swinging at Porcello’s first pitch of the game and lining it into center for a single on a 2-for-5 day in which he scored a run. After Moncada was forced at second in the first inning, Abreu doubled off the wall to score Yolmer Sanchez to give the Sox their first run in a 5-2 victory.
Moncada went after Porcello’s first pitch again in the second and grounded out. In the fourth, Moncada took ball one before flying out to center on the second pitch. He also struck out and had an infield single.
Abreu said one way Moncada can be better at the plate is to look for good pitches to hit early in the count. Moncada had swung at the first pitch 41 times in his career entering play Sunday, and the results had been good: a .463 average with two homers.
He might want to pounce on the first pitch more often if it’s a get-me-over strike, Abreu suggested.
‘‘Definitely,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘Right now pitchers are attacking him, starting with the first strike and then working him with breaking balls. Then it’s tough to figure out breaking balls at this level, especially if you are too passive at the plate. So you need to be more aggressive, especially the first pitch in the count. When he figures it out, then you are going to see the results.’’
Abreu, 31, said he’s still learning in his fifth season, so give Moncada — who committed his seventh error of the season and cost the Sox a run in the seventh — some time.
‘‘He has the talent, and one thing I always tell him: ‘Don’t lose your confidence,’ ’’ Abreu said. ‘‘That is the force that will drive you through it and to the success we know he can have.’’