By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — There was no hesitation for White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu when his phone buzzed and Yoan Moncada texted to ask for a ride from Midway Airport.
The excitement for Abreu to welcome Moncada came from a truly genuine place in his heart, one established from their roots in Cuba. Abreu was eager to bring Moncada over to Chicago’s South Side for his White Sox debut.
They’ve come a lot further to be White Sox teammates.
“We are blessed,” Abreu said, repeating that word several times.
Wednesday will bring the White Sox debut of Moncada, the prized prospect returned in the blockbuster deal with Boston that sent ace Chris Sale to the Red Sox. Moncada is ranked as the top prospect in baseball by MLB.com and is viewed as a five-tool player. The White Sox were thrilled to land him, with no player more excited than Abreu.
Abreu and Moncada now have lockers side by side in the White Sox clubhouse — as requested by Abreu — and their relationship will continue to unfold from there. They first became acquainted as teammates in spring training, with Abreu knowing well that Moncada would be bound for Triple-A Charlotte to open the season.
For Wednesday’s game with the Dodgers, the White Sox have slotted Abreu hitting third at first base with Moncada hitting sixth and playing second base. Manager Rick Renteria anticipates Moncada batting in the middle of the order when the time is right.
Moncada will have Abreu there to guide him along the way. They stepped from the clubhouse to the batting cage together, with Abreu admiring that sweet swing of Moncada’s from both sides of the plate.
Struggles will certainly arise for Moncada at some point. It’s only a natural part of the development process, but he’ll have a mentor to guide through those issues.
“He’s a great kid,” Abreu said. “We all know how he can play baseball and how his tools are for this game.
“He’s going to do great here. He’s an outstanding player, and I’ll be here right by his side.”
Abreu broke into the big leagues in 2014 and earned Rookie of the Year honors in the American League. He hit .317 and posted a career-best .964 OPS while hitting 36 homers and knocking in 107 runs. Everything seemed to be natural for the slugger.
Moncada struck out in 60 percent of his plate appearances during an eight-game debut last September with the Red Sox. He faces a clean slate now as a member of the White Sox.
“I want to give him as much as I know and as much help that I can give to him,” Abreu said. “It’s an honor to be playing with somebody who is from my same country, my same town.”
Notes: Tyler Clippard, acquired in Tuesday’s trade with the Yankees, will serve as the new White Sox closer after the team moved David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to New York … Matt Davidson will be the primary third baseman in place of Todd Frazier, with Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez also mixing in.