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Abreu embracing grind of Spring Training

MLB.com @alysonfooter

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The beginning of the final full week of Spring Training is usually the time when players start to get restless, knowing Opening Day is just around the corner, but also realizing they first have more than a handful of spring games to get through.

Designed mostly for pitchers to build up arm strength, Spring Training can feel a little long to the typical Major League hitter, especially five weeks into it. Count White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu as a bit of an anomaly in this scenario, however. He feels energized with the idea of ramping things up this week, and plans to make the most of the White Sox final week of Cactus League before the team departs Arizona.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The beginning of the final full week of Spring Training is usually the time when players start to get restless, knowing Opening Day is just around the corner, but also realizing they first have more than a handful of spring games to get through.

Designed mostly for pitchers to build up arm strength, Spring Training can feel a little long to the typical Major League hitter, especially five weeks into it. Count White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu as a bit of an anomaly in this scenario, however. He feels energized with the idea of ramping things up this week, and plans to make the most of the White Sox final week of Cactus League before the team departs Arizona.

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"I want to go into this week healthy and be fully prepared for the season to start," he said prior to Monday's game, a 15-2 win over the D-backs. "There's a few other things that I still want to sync. But, I want to complete Spring Training as healthy as I can be, and start the season strong."

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It's been a slow spring for the powerful first baseman. Entering Monday's game, he had seven hits over 38 spring at-bats (.184) with two homers and six RBIs. But after a day off on Sunday, he found his groove against the D-backs, walking in his first two plate appearances, before doubling to center in the fifth.

Tweet from @mike_petriello: Jose Abreu hit a ball at 113.5 MPH in today's spring game. He only hit three balls harder all of last year. I keep feeling like he's underrated. pic.twitter.com/2ZJuH6rSBw

Abreu has been on a slightly limited spring schedule compared to some of the expected lineup regulars, by design. Manager Rick Renteria has been diligent about how he's handled Abreu's workload, finding a balance between making sure the first baseman is both prepared for the regular season, while also not overdoing things.

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"He likes to play every day," Renteria said. "I don't think he likes me taking him out of games that we've had earlier this spring, or recently, where I want to get him out after three or four at-bats and he wanted to finish it. As long as he's feeling good, I don't mind that. I think that the biggest concern with everybody is making sure they get out of here healthy."

Most of the projected Opening Day lineup can expect to see more playing time this week, to create more of a regular-season feel, as was the case on Monday. A day after most of the regulars rested, the offensive output during Monday's game with the D-backs was more in line with what the Sox foresee come Opening Day.

"We're trying to extend everybody else," Renteria said. "Probably have back-to-back days where you see the same lineup, get them as many at-bats as possible, try to extend their innings and continue to get their legs underneath them."

Camp battle

Left-hander Hector Santiago, a non-roster invitee auditioning for a spot on the White Sox pitching staff, further strengthened his case with two more scoreless innings against the D-backs on Monday. The 30-year-old Santiago walked one and struck out two and lowered his Cactus League ERA to 0.75.

Santiago is challenging Carson Fulmer for the final spot in the White Sox rotation. Fulmer also pitched effectively Monday, throwing four scoreless innings and walking three.

An educational offseason

White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino fulfilled one of his most important goals this offseason when he received a bachelor's degree in sports management from Oral Roberts University.

"It was something I was really hoping to be able to do," he said. "Prior to signing out of college, just in talking with scouts and stuff, they said make sure you don't forget about school and try to give yourself some sort of plan to make that possible and pursue it."

He played baseball at Oral Roberts -- "It was my only offer" -- and was down to one class by the end of last season. He took that one online from his home in Southern California.

Video: MIL@CWS: Saladino slugs a solo homer to left field

"It was a really cool accomplishment," he said. "It felt really good. I can relate it to reaching the Major Leagues, where you really feel you accomplished something big in your life. It was a huge weight off the shoulders."

Saladino isn't anticipating that second career happening anytime soon. He's 28 years old and has shown he can play all over the infield. But, when that time comes, he wants to coach and teach.

"I've always wanted to coach baseball," he said. "When I'm done playing, I'd like to be able to go back and help the kids by teaching and coaching. That's been my focus in school -- to be able to help someone."

Up next

The White Sox will host the Rangers at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday at 3:05 p.m. CT. Right-hander Lucas Giolito, sporting a 3.18 ERA over three spring outings, will start for the White Sox. Right-hander Doug Fister will take the mound for Texas. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. Richard Justice contributed to this story.

Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu