Abreu inspiring for White Sox with All-Star start
Slugger first Sox player since 1996 to win fan vote, start Midsummer Classic
Jose Abreu played the first 5 1/2 innings in Tuesday's All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, going 0-for-2 in the American League's 8-6 win over the National League, and his start marked a significant moment in White Sox history.
Abreu was the first White Sox position player since Frank Thomas in 1996 to not only start an All-Star Game, but to lead the fan voting at any point in that span. Not only that, but the South Side slugger led the fan vote at first base in every weekly update, despite going through a slump in June in which his batting average fell from .319 to .253.
Abreu was the sixth White Sox player to start via fan election, joining Thomas, Carlton Fisk, Richie Zisk, Dick Allen and Luis Aparicio. Those six have combined to start 11 All-Star Games.
"I'm just grateful for this opportunity," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I want to give thanks to the White Sox organization and to my teammates that made this possible for me."
Abreu's start also exemplified his value to the White Sox franchise as a whole. Chicago is in Phase 2 of its rebuild, and its 2018 season has seen some tough times. After trading away several stars in the last 18 months, the Sox have played the young players they've acquired in return, hoping they can develop into key components of a future contender.
That's led to some growing pains, but Abreu has stayed positive. His 13 home runs are tied for second on the team with Tim Anderson, and his .441 slugging percentage ranks fourth (min. 100 at-bats) behind Avisail Garcia, Daniel Palka and Welington Castillo.
Abreu's veteran presence in the young White Sox clubhouse has provided a steadying force for the younger players, and his locker sits next to fellow countryman Yoan Moncada's locker.
What's most important to Abreu is setting an example for the younger players, and he thinks the All-Star Game is a good stage for that purpose.
"That's going to help as a motivation for them to see what you can do if you work hard and you do the things that you need to do to progress and to develop," Abreu said. "I hope that this can help them as a motivation."
Top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech are still around the corner, and others such as Luis Robert, Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen are further away from the big leagues, with anticipation building for their arrivals. With Abreu in the fifth year of his six-year, $68 million free-agent deal, his future with the club beyond 2019 remains uncertain.
But on Tuesday, with his wife and children in attendance, Abreu lived in the moment at his second career All-Star Game.
"We'll see what will happen next year," Abreu said. "The guys that will be here next year will do a good job, too."