Cuba has a reputation for having some of the best baseball talent in the world within its borders. When players leave the island in pursuit of other playing opportunities, they often make a significant impact. After defecting and signing with the Chicago White Sox, Jose Abreu has already proven that he is no exception.
The White Sox opened the 2014 season by taking two games of a three-game series from the Minnesota Twins. Abreu hit safely in all three games and drove in five of the White Sox’ 21 total runs. His slash line for the season stands at .417/.533/.750.
Abreu’s best game was the series finale; though the White Sox lost 10-9, he went 2-for-4 with a double, a triple and four RBI.
But Abreu’s most memorable moments came in the second game, during which the Twins’ pitching staff intentionally walked him in consecutive at bats. First, in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs, the game tied 6-6 and two runs already in for the White Sox, Glen Perkins put Abreu at first and opted instead to face Adam Dunn, who hit a home run earlier in the game.
Dunn grounded out to end the inning, but two innings later a similar situation arose. In the bottom of the 11th inning, Samuel Deduno walked Abreu, putting runners at the corners with two outs. Six pitches later, the White Sox won on a passed ball/ball four.
It’s exceptionally rare for a pitcher to decide to intentionally walk a rookie; especially in a close game; especially in the second game of the season. According to reports, since 1955 when intentional walks were first recorded, Abreu is the first rookie to be intentionally walked twice in the same game in his first two major league games.
Consistency breeds both respect and fear in the eyes of opponents. The combination of Abreu’s strong spring and season numbers paired with his international reputation mean that he could face more intentional free passes as the season continues.
Chances are also high that Abreu’s bat will cool down eventually and his stats will take on a more normal look. For now, however, the White Sox have a new budding star and a solid heir to the first base throne.