GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — It’s beginning to feel real for Jose Abreu.
The Chicago White Sox’s new slugger from Cuba met with the media Tuesday, two days before position players are expected to report. Abreu, eager for the season to begin, has already been hard at work at the Sox spring training complex.
“It feels like it’s getting close,” Abreu said through interpreter Lino Diaz. “I can’t wait.”
Abreu says he hasn’t had the opportunity to do much with his newfound wealth after signing a six-year, $68 million deal with the White Sox in October. And he looks forward to asking more questions of countrymen Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, who have enjoyed a lot of success in their short time in the U.S.
“I’m not competing with them,” Abreu said. “They’re a source of inspiration to me.”
Abreu, 27, is the White Sox first baseman of the future. Paul Konerko, who has been with the franchise since 1999, came back for one more season and the veteran first baseman/DH will be providing guidance for Abreu.
“I’m thankful to have access to him,” Abreu said of Konerko. “I have nothing but respect for his career and his success. I can learn a lot from him.”
Abreu defected from the Cuban national team last year, went to the Dominican Republic and was declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. His wife is here with him, and he said is “thankful” that he is able to stay in touch with his family in Cuba.
Manager Robin Ventura likes the approach his new slugger is taking. He described Abreu as professional and mature.
“He’s a complete hitter,” Ventura said. “He’s hitting the ball where it’s pitched. He’s hitting to all fields. He’s not worried about trying to hit every ball over the fence.”
Abreu is looking forward to the spring opener Feb. 28 against Puig and the Los Angeles Dodgers. While he adjusts to the big leagues, Abreu won’t be without friends. The Sox already have a pair of Cubans in shortstop Alexei Ramirez and outfielder Dayan Viciedo, and they selected catcher Adrian Nieto from Washington in the Rule 5 draft in December.
The self-described homebody likes to watch video of great players such as Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera. He has talked with Cespedes and Puig on the phone, but hasn’t had a chance to sit down with them yet. Puig, who was Abreu’s teammate at Cienfuegos in the Cuban league, is nearby at Dodgers camp.
“I don’t see it as, ‘I have to do what they’ve done,'” Abreu said of his countrymen’s success. “It’s more like, it’s great they have done that and it’s an inspiration to me.”
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.