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Abreu faces off vs. fellow Cuban slugger Cespedes

Abreu faces off vs. fellow Cuban slugger Cespedes

OAKLAND -- Two of the most prolific Cuban sluggers in the game are going head-to-head this week, as Jose Abreu and the White Sox play Yoenis Cespedes and the A's.

Abreu entered the three-game set as the MLB leader in home runs (13) and extra-base hits (25), while ranking second in RBIs (37) and toting a .273/.325/.610 slash line. Though Cespedes isn't putting up such monster numbers (.258/.340/.516, seven homers, 21 RBIs), the reigning Home Run Derby champ remains a dangerous threat in Oakland's lineup.

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"We competed in a few home run derbys," Abreu said in Spanish. "I know him very well and we have a good relationship. I'm sure I'll enjoy the opportunity to get together with him."

Abreu and Cespedes were foes in Cuba's Serie Nacional before defecting and coming to the United States, and the two players have formed a friendship. They're just two of the top Cuban players to emerge out of the country in recent years, along with others like Jose Fernandez, Yasiel Puig and White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez.

"I don't only feel happy for him, but for every Cuban ballplayer that plays in the Majors," Abreu said. "This is the best baseball in the world. I have a great deal of admiration for all them, and the most important thing is to stay healthy and keep working hard to have success. … I'm proud to add myself to that list now."

Upon hearing about Fernandez's elbow injury on Monday, which landed him on the Miami disabled list, Abreu said he's confident that the talented right-hander will work hard to come back strong.

"He's an incredible pitcher, I admire him a lot," Abreu said.

As for his own ankle injury which popped up in recent days, Abreu said it was more of a foot issue. Because he has flat feet, Abreu was issued special soles for his shoes during Spring Training, but they actually gave him more discomfort. Still, Abreu said he doesn't want to take any days off.

"I keep working hard through it because in the Majors you need to play every day," Abreu said, "because if you don't play every day, you lose your rhythm."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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