In these dif­fi­cult times, vet­eran’s lead­er­ship skills are in­valu­able

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN dvan­schouwen@sun­times.com | @CST_­sox­van

Jose Abreu is not afraid. He knows the risks — and has con­cerns for his fam­ily in Mi­ami and for him­self and his White Sox team­mates — dur­ing this pan­demic.

He will take the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions as the Sox pre­pare for a 60-game sea­son, but he won’t live in fear.

“If you live your life in peace, ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be OK,” Abreu said this week.

“In God’s hands, ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be good, and God is go­ing to pro­tect us.”

A calm­ing pres­ence from a vet­eran leader goes a long way as the Sox’ group of play­ers and staff work ev­ery day at Guar­an­teed Rate Field, which is dressed to the nines in coronaviru­s preven­tion mea­sures.

Two un­named team­mates tested pos­i­tive — al­though both were asymp­to­matic — be­fore they ar­rived, one of them be­lieved to be Yoan Mon­cada. More than 40 play­ers around base­ball are known to have tested pos­i­tive. So there is a sense of aware­ness from the three-time All-Star.

“This is some­thing we are all fac­ing; we are all mak­ing ad­just­ments to the COVID-19 virus,” Abreu said.

And so the Sox go about their busi­ness, do­ing what they can to stay healthy. They feel like they are in as safe an en­vi­ron­ment as they can be un­der the cir­cum­stances of be­ing base­ball play­ers.

“Here we get tested ev­ery other day,” right-han­der Steve Cishek said Thurs­day, “so I feel a lot safer com­ing here and train­ing [com­pared to] what I was do­ing in Florida, where who knows what the guy next to you is do­ing.”

In the mean­time, Abreu’s voice and pres­ence con­tinue to mean some­thing to his team­mates, one of the rea­sons why the Sox re-signed him to a three-year, $50 mil­lion deal in the off­sea­son. Dur­ing the 33-year-old vet­eran’s con­fer­ence call with me­dia this week, there he was talk­ing about things that can dis­tract and in­ter­fere with the things that mat­ter. For up-and­com­ing young stars such as Eloy

Jimenez and Luis Robert with their new wealth and fame, new chal­lenges come along. Nice prob­lems to have, but these are is­sues that re­quire at­ten­tion.

“Be strong be­cause it’s hard,” Abreu warned. “I’m go­ing to be there with [Jimenez]. If he needs some­thing, how­ever I can help him, I’m go­ing to be there just to help and sup­port him. That’s go­ing to be a plus, too, the same way I’m go­ing to be there for Luis Robert.”

The Sox played their first in­trasquad game Thurs­day, 15 days ahead of the sea­son opener against the Twins. Abreu lined out and sin­gled in his two at-bats. There’s no time to waste get­ting ready.

And ev­ery­one needs to be ready when the bell rings in two weeks.

“Sixty games is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent for us,” Abreu said. “We have to go ev­ery day try­ing to win ev­ery game, and there’s no room for er­ror. We have to . . . take ad­van­tage of this sit­u­a­tion.”

This three-week pe­riod is the new sixweek prep time of a nor­mal spring train­ing in Ari­zona. The fa­cil­i­ties are dif­fer­ent, and there is a sense of speed­ing things up, even though the Sox trained four weeks be­fore the shut­down in March.

“Us play­ers have to get used to that rou­tine or those lim­i­ta­tions, those hours the sched­ule has,” Abreu said. “[It will take time] for us to feel real com­fort­able, but at the end, I think we’re go­ing to do it with­out any ma­jor prob­lems.

“It’s on us to keep our fo­cus and work hard to try to be in the best shape as pos­si­ble when the sea­son starts. It’s on us.”

In a pan­demic, some of it might be out of their hands. Those things, Abreu isn’t los­ing sleep over.

“Make the right de­ci­sions in ev­ery mo­ment,” he said. “Just do the best that we can in this sit­u­a­tion.”


White Sox first base­man Jose Abreu says there’s no room for er­ror in a 60-game sea­son.


Jose Abreu is one of the lead­ers in the club­house.

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