Abreu reflects on journey, looks ahead
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Jose Abreu's offseason trip to his native Cuba meant so much to the slugger. He was still talking about his precious time in his homeland after the Chicago White Sox held their first full-squad workout on Tuesday.
''It was the best winter of my life,'' Abreu said through an interpreter.
Abreu is coming off consecutive seasons with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs to begin his major league career, and the White Sox are looking for more of the same from the first baseman as they try to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the AL Central.
Infielders Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie joined Chicago via trade over the winter, and new catchers Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro are expected to provide more offense behind the plate. The White Sox also signed shortstop Jimmy Rollins to a minor league deal this week.
While the White Sox were active, Abreu was busy as well. He got married, and he also made a journey back to where it all began for him.
Along with former teammate Alexei Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena, he went to Cuba for three days as part of a Major League Baseball trip, the first of its kind since 1999.
''I went to Cuba, I saw my son and my grandmother and it was a very good offseason for me,'' Abreu said.
Abreu also liked the offseason for the team.
''Today, we were laughing and making jokes,'' he said. ''That's the kind of atmosphere we need here. We need to feel the chemistry and be like a family. That's something we need to build from here.''
The 29-year-old Abreu was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014 when he hit 36 homers, drove in 107 runs and led the major leagues with a .581 slugging percentage. He had 30 homers, 101 RBIs and a .502 slugging percentage in his second season.
''I hope he keeps doing what he's doing,'' White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. ''People were talking about a sophomore slump, but he's a guy you can just count on. He brings a little something extra to the table because of his preparation. He shows up, in shape, ready to go.
''If there's anything about him, he probably works too much. He takes too many swings, does too much work this early. So we're slowing him down a little bit to time it for opening day.''
Outfielders Avisail Garcia and Melky Cabrera joined Abreu in camp on Tuesday, making a complete group for the White Sox.
Garcia said he doesn't feel pressure to produce even though several names were discussed in the offseason as potential replacements for the 24-year-old right fielder.
''Sometimes you have rough times in the big leagues,'' Garcia said. ''We are always learning. Every day you learn something new.
''You just have to keep working because I know I have the talent. I have to work and do what they tell me, and I have to believe in what I'm doing and trust myself.''
Garcia hit .257 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs in his first full major league season. No White Sox hitter got to half of Abreu's home run total, with leadoff man Adam Eaton second on the team with 14.
''I think that's one of the bigger things that's so impressive with him,'' Ventura said of Abreu. ''We really had nothing there for him. You see what the numbers are offensively and he's still able to get those numbers.
''He did that pretty much on his own. I think we have some pieces that can help him.''