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White Sox notes: Jose Abreu, a 5-run first, Erik Johnson, Larry Doby

CLEVELAND – Jose Abreu had 15 homers through Friday, plenty to lead the light-hitting White Sox but well behind his pace of his rookie season when he hit 36.

A sore finger has affected him and is one popular cause applied to his lack of pop, but Abreu said Saturday he feels good and is in better physical shape than he was a year ago at this time.

“The difference has been huge,’’ Abreu said through a translator. “Last year, I wasn’t prepared to keep my performance through the 162 games. I learned from my experience, and this offseason I worked hard and I tried to add some work to try to improve my physical level and to keep my level during the whole season, to keep my body fresh.

“Yes, that is why I am feeling really good and am feeling in better shape than last year. This is an experience you have and you have to learn from it. ‘’

The Sox’ poor offensive production as a team, which could finish at historical lows when the season is over, has made Abreu put more on his shoulders, and therein lies another possible reason why his numbers are behind last year’s standard.

“Me in particular, yes, when the team hasn’t performed well, I’m trying to do my best in any moment because of my contract, because of my situation, because I know the people look at me as a leader on the offense,’’ Abreu said, “and I always try to respond to that responsibility. In that way, yes, I try to put more pressure on me because I feel the necessity to show up in that moment.’’

Abreu continues to show up against the best. When he homered Friday against Corey Kluber, it was the third of his career against the reigning Cy Young winner and his 10th against Cy Young pitchers. Against R.A. Dickey, Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Jake Peavy, David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Kluber, Abreu is hitting .323 with 19 RBI.

Abreu singled in a pair of runs in the first inning Saturday.

“He looks healthy, he looks good at the plate right now and he understands what he means to the lineup,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.

First-inning explosion

The Sox scored five runs in the first inning against Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco Saturday night. Adam Eaton, Tyler Saladino, Melky Cabrera and Abreu singled in succession to start the game, and Tyler Flowers drove in two runs with a single to make it 5-0. Cabrera’s hit drove in the first run.

The Sox (44-50) won the first two games of the series against the Indians by 8-1 and 6-0 scores.

The Sox have been outscored 72-32 in the first inning this season.

Just in case

 

Erik Johnson, a possible if not likely replacement in the rotation should Jeff Samardzija be traded before the Friday non-waiver trade deadline, is being held back in AAA Charlotte’s rotation to Tuesday, which happens to be Samardzija’s next scheduled start.

Johnson (8-5, 2.59) was the starting pitcher in the AAA All-Star Game.

 

“He’s been really good,’’ assistant general manager Buddy Bell said. “He’s been outstanding. Fastball command, breaking ball. I mean, I think we all know the kind of competitor he is.’’

 

A tribute to Doby

 

Larry Doby, who followed Jackie Robinson as the second African-American in the major leagues and the first to play in the American League for the Bill Veeck-owned Cleveland Indians in July, 1947, was honored with a statue outside Progressive Field before the game.

Doby was a player for the White Sox in 1956-57 and their manager in 1978. A seven-time All-Star, Doby died at age 79 in 2003.

 

 

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Email: Dvanschouwen@suntimes.com