White Sox clubhouse moves on without Jose Abreu

“That’s part of the business,” third baseman Yoan Moncada said.

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(From left) Luis Robert, Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada.

Jose Abreu (79) won’t be around for Luis Robert (left) and Yoan Moncada (10). Abreu is a Houston Astro after nine years on the South Side.

Cole Burston/Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Abreu’s locker, next to the White Sox’ clubhouse entrance, now belongs to Yoan Moncada. Abreu’s extra locker, a perk afforded to only a select few, is occupied by rookie outfielder Oscar Colas, slotted between fellow Cubans Moncada and Luis Robert.

Abreu’s absence will be felt this year in the Sox’ lineup, which lost a .304/.378/.446 hitter from last season and the franchise’s third-ranked home run hitter behind Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko. The clubhouse will miss a veteran who arrived early and played every day, often through bumps and aches others might not have.

Abreu, who left for the Astros in free agency, demonstrated how to act like a big-leaguer when Moncada, now 27, and Robert, 25, were breaking in. They’re on their own now, and if they take the leadership baton in any small measure, the clubhouse will be the better for it.

“It’s going to feel strange, for sure, not having [Abreu] here,” Robert said through a translator. “Especially in my case, he was here the whole time I’ve been here. It’s going to be weird, different, but I’m going to still try to put in play all the stuff that he taught me, and of course try to improve myself.”

Abreu’s lesson: Work hard every day. If the results aren’t there, keep working.

When Robert heard in November that Abreu, who spent his first nine seasons with the Sox, signed a three-year, $50 million deal with the World Series champions — a perfect deal at seemingly the perfect place, giving him a chance to know what it feels like to win a playoff series — he congratulated him.

“That’s good,” Robert said. “That was a decision about what was best for him, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

On the Cuban disconnection in the clubhouse, Moncada added: “That’s part of the business. That decision wasn’t in our hands. I’m very thankful for all the help he gave me and gave this team.”

So it’s time to move on. The glances that Moncada and Robert exchanged suggested they’d be happy to move on without questions about Abreu. So it goes when a teammate leaves. The Astros will be the Sox’ first opponent of the season March 30.

“You know he contributes so much, [brought] so much energy,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “We’re definitely going to miss him. But we’re not going to dwell on him. We open up with him, so we’ll see him. It’s still love, but we’ve got to push towards our goals as well.”

After another Abreu question, Anderson, in as many words, said it’s OK if we move on to the next subject.

“We’re going to miss all of it, all of that, but it’s a business, so we’ve got to keep rolling,” he said. “You know we’re not going to sit here and talk about ‘Pito’ [Abreu] all day. We love Pito, but we’re definitely not going to just continue to keep talking about him.”

Colas, on his second day in camp, talked about Robert, who invited Colas to his mansion in South Florida during the offseason. They worked out and hit together, and Robert has been helpful, Colas said through a translator.

“We’ve known each other for a very long time,” Colas said. “We are like brothers. We are like family. We spent a lot of time together during the offseason.

“Being here with him, it’s good, it’s a plus. He’s been telling me how the routine is, what I need to do and how we work here. It’s definitely good in helping me feel a little more comfortable.”

The Sox have no choice but to be comfortable without Abreu. Sox life without him has begun.

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