PRO BASEBALL

White Sox latest acquisition Abreu: I'm not just a power hitter

2013-10-29T18:30:00Z 2013-10-29T23:10:12Z White Sox latest acquisition Abreu: I'm not just a power hitterGeorge Castle Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 29, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO | At 6-foot-3, Jose Abreu cut an impressive figure in his shiny gray suit Tuesday. He looked like the quintessential power hitter even out of uniform.

The White Sox’s newest free-agent signee and third Cuban player on the roster appears tall and angular despite a weight of around 255 pounds.

But it’s Abreu’s broad-mindedness at bat that first attracted scouts, and then the top brass to their probable 2014 first baseman.

By his own definition, he’s not just a slug-and-watch big bopper. And that’s a relief to the frustrated by a thoroughly broken lineup the last season-plus.

“So much has been said about my power,” Abreu said through interpreter Lou Hernandez, a Southeast Side native, at his introductory press conference at U.S. Cellular Field.

“But more than hitting home runs, when I’m at the plate, my mind is making sure I do what’s needed for the team, that’s my strategy at the plate. I’m not thinking home runs ... it’s what I’m asked to do.”

The Sox desperately need a middle-of-the-order hitter who can multi-task.

Said general manager Rick Hahn: “We look at an offense that finished last in the league in runs scored, last in the league in walks, on-base percentage, and obviously was toward the bottom in pitchers per plate appearance in terms of working the count.

"Those are obviously areas that we need to improve and we made no secret we’re seeking to improve. Jose brings some of that ability to the table. He’s a professional hitter; a guy who knows how to make adjustments.

"He’s a much more well-rounded hitter than perhaps some of the early reports have him," Hahn added.

Abreu, 26, said he was inspired by all the Cuban players who came before him.

Fittingly, sitting front row and center on Tuesday was Cuban-born Minnie Minoso, pushing 90, the first man to break the color line in Chicago baseball with the Sox on May 1, 1951.

Only minutes passed before Hahn was asked an obvious question about whether Abreu’s arrival means franchise icon Paul Konerko’s imminent departure, possibly by retirement. The process may still come to that, but it’s several weeks off with Konerko, 38, on vacation with his family.

“This signing does not preclude us bringing Paul back,” Hahn said.

Pressed further about the possibility of three players for first base and DH -- Abreu, Konerko and Adam Dunn -- Hahn deferred further comment until he, Konerko and Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf meet in Arizona next month.

While not precluding another free-agent signing, Hahn also suggested further major moves may be more likely via trade. That could scotch the idea of Lynwood’s Curtis Granderson, 33 next season, coming home as a prime free agent after four seasons as a Yankee.

“There’s a top tier, but again, those are players that obviously are going to cost you draft picks,” Hahn said. “They are entering their mid-30s and probably require a contract commitment not only through their mid-30s, but possibly through their late 30s.

"So you have to be careful with that.”

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