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Abreu boasts striking resume of home run conquests

All-Star pitchers weigh in on White Sox slugger's blasts against them

Abreu boasts striking resume of home run conquests

MINNEAPOLIS -- Along the way to leading the Major Leagues at the All-Star break with 29 home runs, Jose Abreu has cleared the fences of 11 different big league ballparks and victimized four former Cy Young Award winners and a trio of fellow 2014 All-Stars.

He's surprising even himself.

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"I wanted to have a good season for the Chicago White Sox," Abreu said Monday on the eve of his first Midsummer Classic. "What I've done in the first half has surpassed my expectations. I'm really blessed."

Abreu's home run count is second-highest in history by a rookie before the break, trailing only Mark McGwire's 33 in 1987, and are the third-highest total in White Sox history behind Frank Thomas (32 in 1994) and Jim Thome (30 in 2006).

The rookie record for home runs is McGwire's 49, a figure Abreu insisted that not only is he not targeting, but he did not know. He also downplayed his home runs against top pitchers, including two home runs apiece off Justin Verlander and R.A. Dickey, and one apiece against fellow 2014 All-Stars David Price, Clayton Kershaw and Tim Hudson.

Abreu was modest, saying through his translator that his marquee blasts were "not really what I'm thinking about."

Leave it to a couple of teammates and All-Stars to talk about the caliber of pitcher Abreu has hit.

"He's got a few notable ones," Chicago left-hander Chris Sale said.

"I knew him in Cuba. Nothing has surprised me of what he's done," added Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez. "I knew quite well what he could do. In fact, when we signed him and announced he was coming to the team, I said then this is what we can expect of him."

Here's a look at Abreu's long balls against his fellow All-Stars:

Date: April 27 at U.S. Cellular Field
Pitcher: Rays left-hander Price
Situation: Bottom of the sixth, 2-1 Sox lead
Outcome: Two-run homer to left field

Price challenged Abreu with a first-pitch changeup, the same offering that had induced a fly out in Abreu's previous at-bat. This time, Price left one over the plate and up in the strike zone, and Abreu produced a different result.

"I remember hearing something on MLB [Network] that he can't hit changeups," Price said. "He hit mine just fine. He hit a home run to left-center when the wind was blowing straight in about 30 mph. It could have left the yard if there was no wind.

"But he has power to all fields. When someone has that, they can trust their hands and let the ball get deep like he does, he's a very scary hitter."

Date: June 2 at Dodger Stadium
Pitcher: Dodgers left-hander Kershaw
Situation: Top of the fourth, scoreless game
Outcome: Two-run homer to left field

After Abreu fouled off a first-pitch fastball, Kershaw came back with a slider and left it up in the zone, but -- at least he thought -- close enough to Abreu's hands to avoid real damage.

Abreu muscled it out for a 2-0 lead, representing the only runs against Kershaw that day over eight excellent innings.

"I thought he got jammed," Kershaw said. "I knew it was going to be at least a double, but I had zero expectations of it going over the fence. I mean, scouting-wise, there's not really one pitch that gets him out. You just have to keep mixing it up.

"I think [what impressed Kershaw] is the strength, to hit that ball over the fence. I think he had a few of those; he hit a curveball that he was out in front and hit it out. The slider I threw got a little in on him, and he still hit it out. He doesn't have to perfectly square up balls to hit homers, which is a testament to how strong he is."

Date: June 18 at U.S. Cellular Field
Pitcher: Giants right-hander Hudson
Situation: Bottom of the first, scoreless game
Outcome: Two-run homer to left field

Another record-setting home run. With this one, in an 0-2 count, Abreu became only the third first-year player to have 20 home runs and 50 RBIs before the All-Star break. He got to 20 homers in 58 career games, a pace that trailed only McGwire (56 games) and Wally Berger (51 games).

"As pitchers, we do our homework and try to figure out what hitters' strengths and weaknesses are. There's usually a red flag, things that they're good at and things that they're not good at," Hudson said. "But he's a guy that doesn't have a lot of holes. There's not a lot of cold zones in his swing. You try to pound those cold zones, but if you miss, he's a guy that can really hurt you. He's hurt a lot of guys this year."

Hudson tried to throw his splitter low and away. Instead, it was low and in.

"The thing it seems he's very good at is not missing the mistakes," Hudson said. "The evidence is there. He's muddied up a lot of pitchers this year, and I don't see it ending anytime soon."

That's what the White Sox are hoping.

"You talk about a guy who's [in] his first year of Major League Baseball, and he's dominating," Sale said. "Really just dominating the game of baseball right now. I've said this a million times -- I'm glad he's on my team."

What if he wasn't? Has Sale considered how he would pitch Abreu?

"I wouldn't," Sale said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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