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The Rundown: Jose Abreu is a smash with the White Sox

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Saturday, May 3, 2014, at 9:17 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 4, 2014, at 12:42 a.m.

Last season was a disaster for the Chicago White Sox.

After pushing the Tigers for the AL Central title the year before, Chicago won just eight games in June, eight in July and seven in September.

The team’s brain trust made a critical decision: It would spend the money to rebuild quickly. Even before the team finished the season against the Royals, executive vice president Kenny Williams was in the Dominican Republic scouting Cuban slugger José Abreu.

While the White Sox also added infielder Matt Davidson and outfielder Adam Eaton during the offseason, the big splash was for Abreu. Chicago beat out six other teams, dropping $68 million over six years on Abreu, and so far it seems like a good financial decision. Abreu had a huge April, hitting 10 home runs and collecting 32 RBIs.

“When you make a sizable investment in a premium free agent it comes with some sort of potential for downside,” general manager Rick Hahn acknowledged in an interview with CSNChicago. “It’s really a matter of choosing: Are you going to sit and do nothing, which is the safest route, or are you going to try to aggressively address your needs?

“While, yes, there is some risk making a commitment to a player who hasn’t played in the States, it’s a calculated risk. It was one we felt we had to take. If we’re going to get this thing right and we’re going to do it as quickly as we want it done and quickly as White Sox fans want it done we’re going to have to be bold. We’re going to have to be aggressive. … The alternative is standing still, and that’s not something we’re interested in.”

Abreu’s success may have caught many by surprise, but in the Cuban 2012-13 season, he batted .345 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs in just 264 at-bats. That’s what caught the attention of so many teams.

One month into a six-year deal doesn’t mean the White Sox have a $68 million steal. But so far so good. Here’s the scary thing: Abreu’s teammate Adrian Nieto, a fellow Cuban, believes the cold weather has stunted Abreu.

“He hasn’t heated up yet,” Nieto told USA Today. “When the weather warms up, that’s when you’re going to see a real beast.”

Three up

• Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado carried a 21-game hitting streak into Saturday’s game.

• Former Royals pitcher Zack Greinke is 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA with the Dodgers.

• Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters is hitting .415 in night games.

Three down

• Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has one hit in his last 20 at-bats.

• In April, Texas’ Prince Fielder had personal lows for average (.206) and slugging percentage (.314) in a month and matched his monthly low for home runs with two. For only the third time in his career, Fielder drove in fewer than 10 runs in a month.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks are 3-15 at home this season, including two games against the Dodgers in Australia.

Statistically speaking

• Max Scherzer joined Mickey Lolich as the only Tiger pitchers to strike out more than 50 batters before May 1. Scherzer struck out 51, while Lolich whiffed 52 in 1970.

• The Twins have lost seven straight games to National League opponents, dating to last season.

• From ESPN’s Jayson Stark: Scouts in New York clocked Bartolo Colon going from home to first, after a ground ball to short, at 7.8 seconds. That’s the slowest time in recorded big-league scouting history.

You need to know

• Right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi was the first player this season to play for two teams and, on Wednesday, became the first to play for three when he started a game (and took the loss) for the White Sox. He began the season with the Mariners, was traded to the Rangers and then claimed off waivers by the White Sox on April 25.

• The Reds had postponements or rain delays in seven of their 11 home games in April.

• With the Rangers’ loss Tuesday, Ron Washington’s managerial record fell to 0-6 on his birthday.

On deck

• Current Cardinals and Cubs clubs will wear throwback 1929 era uniforms on Sunday night.

• Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki is two hits shy of 1,000 for his career.

• The Yankees will travel to Milwaukee for a three-game series starting Friday that could be a World Series preview.

Words of wisdom

“It was baffling, like, where were these guys last week? They were way too comfortable. It seemed like they were all hitting like Ted Williams.”

| Atlanta pitcher Aaron Harang after he gave up nine runs to the Marlins a week after he struck them out 11 times. That fueled speculation that Miami was stealing signs.

| Includes notes from reporters who cover baseball

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