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White Sox, Jose Abreu forced to put 2020 optimism on hold

‘‘None of us here are focused right now on any selfish interests,’’ Sox general manager Rick Hahn said, referring to coronavirus concerns.

White Sox infielders Tim Anderson, left, Yoán Moncada, center, and José Abreu talk during a break in a spring training game March 16, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP)
AP Photos

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As luck would have it, just when the White Sox appear to have a team that should be equipped to compete for its first postseason appearance since 2008, spring training has been suspended and Opening Day delayed until who knows when.

This is the season general manager Rick Hahn, vice president Ken Williams and manager Rick Renteria have been pointing to as the first competitive phase in a rebuild that began in late 2016.

As Hahn said Friday, it was no time to cry for the Sox. Not with bigger-picture health concerns to be dealt with before baseball gets up and running again.

‘‘None of us here are focused right now on any selfish interests,’’ Hahn said.

It’s the season, however, that slugger Jose Abreu has been waiting six years for. It’s a season he’s ready for.

‘‘Right now,’’ Abreu said without hesitation through a translator Wednesday. ‘‘I’m ready. I am ready for Opening Day.’’

When that will be is anybody’s guess. Spring-training camps were suspended Friday, a day after the openers were delayed from March 26 until at least April 9. That start date seems highly unlikely now.

‘‘We’re focused on providing whatever physical and emotional support is needed for players or staff to get through a difficult time beyond the world of baseball,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We hope to be back playing games soon. Unfortunately, that’s beyond the control of any one individual right now.’’

Just four days ago, Abreu couldn’t contain his excitement about the possibility of playing for a winning team for the first time after six losing seasons.

‘‘The expectations are high with this team, and every Sox fan should be excited because we have a good team,’’ Abreu said. ‘‘It’s time for us to start competing and to be one of the teams fighting for a playoff spot.

‘‘We have good energy, a good vibe. We’re tightly connected, and we are united. Those are the factors. You can feel that something good is about to happen.’’

But those good things will be put on hold.

For the Sox and their fans, it brings to mind the gut punch of when the 1994 season was cut short by a players’ strike. The Sox were 67-46 and led the Indians by a game in the American League Central at the time.

This team is seen — on paper, at least — as an above-.500 outfit, which would be enough to have them in contention for most of the season.

‘‘We’re going to remain very optimistic, not only about the possibilities of what lies ahead for 2020 but certainly beyond that,’’ Hahn said. ‘‘We know we’ll get through this. We know there’s another side of this at some point. We know we’ll be playing baseball games again, and we know it’s going to be an exciting era for White Sox baseball in the not-too-distant future.

‘‘It makes sense for the greater good of society as a whole to delay that for a period of time. We understand that. We know where we fit in, and we look forward to — when the time is right — bringing a great deal of happiness to people who need this. And you pick them up, in all probability.’’