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Abreu embraces mentor role with countrymen

MLB.com @scottmerkin

There's a row of lockers at the back of the Camelback Ranch White Sox clubhouse where Jose Abreu could have resided with other more veteran players like Avisail Garcia, Joakim Soria, James Shields and Nate Jones during Spring Training.

Instead, Abreu chose to keep his locker just to the left of the entrance as people walk through the doors, with one caveat: Abreu wanted Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, his Cuban countrymen and top young prospects at the heart of the White Sox rebuild, to be next to him.

There's a row of lockers at the back of the Camelback Ranch White Sox clubhouse where Jose Abreu could have resided with other more veteran players like Avisail Garcia, Joakim Soria, James Shields and Nate Jones during Spring Training.

Instead, Abreu chose to keep his locker just to the left of the entrance as people walk through the doors, with one caveat: Abreu wanted Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, his Cuban countrymen and top young prospects at the heart of the White Sox rebuild, to be next to him.

"I feel good because we are three Cubans here and I think that we can have fun," Moncada told reporters on Saturday through interpreter Billy Russo. "Last year, I was with Abreu here and he taught me a lot. I hope to keep learning from him. Now this year, we have Robert, and I think that Abreu and I can teach him some things and we can help him get used to this process. I think it's going to be fun. I'm just excited."

Abreu arrived at camp sporting a beard. Moncada told reporters "he needs to shave." Aside from the new facial look, nothing has changed with the White Sox leader and voice of the team.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

In this age of pinpoint and expert analytics, that mentor factor often gets overlooked or looked down upon. Some quipped during the offseason if players such as Moncada and Robert couldn't survive at the big league level without Abreu, who the White Sox hold two years of contractual control over, then maybe they don't have a Major League constitution.

But Abreu's presence for players like Moncada, Robert, Eloy Jimenez and many others isn't about reliance as much as it's about guidance. Abreu becomes the veteran who can explain different nuances of big league life, not to mention taking on more of the media responsibilities while the prospects learn how to fail and grow.

It began in Spring Training last season for Abreu and Moncada and continued on even when Moncada went to Triple-A Charlotte. Now, Moncada can use what he learned from Abreu to assist Robert.

"When we worked together in the minicamp, I told him to hang in there," Moncada said of his advice to Robert. "He needs to have discipline in his work, and this is a very good organization, and then he's going to like it. I'm just excited for him to be here. I'm waiting for him to be here."

Video: Robert could move through White Sox system quickly

More veteran wisdom exists within the White Sox clubhouse beyond Abreu. Young pitchers and hitters alike have talked about Shields' shared knowledge, not to mention help from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez and Garcia to name a few.

Abreu has proven to be one of the game's most potent middle-of-the-order hitters during his four-year-career, never dipping below 25 home runs, 100 RBIs, a .290 average or an .820 OPS in any single season. Moncada hopes to find similar production in his first season as the team's everyday second baseman.

"Last year when the team called me, I thought they just were going to give me a few chances to play at second base, but they gave me the opportunity to play every day and it was a really good experience," Moncada said. "This year, knowing that I'm going to be at second base every day, I'm going to feel more comfortable. I already have the experience."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert