José Abreu doubled on the first pitch of his first at-bat with the Chicago White Sox on March 31, 2014, against the Minnesota Twins.
“That pitch was right there, so I have to take advantage of it,” Abreu told reporters through an interpreter after the game.
The first baseman has been a consistent offensive force ever since.
The 2020 American League MVP and three-time All-Star is on the move, reportedly signing with the Houston Astros. He’s expected to get a three-year deal, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, who had the initial report Monday.
Abreu, 35, left quite a mark in nine seasons with the Sox, ranking third on the team’s all-time list with 243 home runs. He has a .292/.354/.506 career slash line in 1,270 games. He slashed .304/.378/.446 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs in 2022.
Abreu’s departure puts Andrew Vaughn in line to play first base for the Sox.
The Sox open the 2023 season in Houston. In Abreu, the reigning World Series champion Astros are signing someone known for his durability and run production.
If there was a game, Abreu more than likely found his way into the lineup. His 528 games played since 2019 ranks second in the AL.
In 2019, Abreu played in the first 102 games, becoming the first Sox player to do so since Alexei Ramírez in 2013.
When he finally took a day off, then-manager Rick Renteria said: “He said he was going to have to call his mom (Sunday) to make sure she doesn’t get too upset because she sees him as a grinder and he’s got to get out there. And he talks to her, and she’s probably going to be upset he’s not in the lineup. So I said: ‘That’s OK. If you need me to, I’ll talk to her.’”
Abreu matched a career high by playing in 159 games that season.
He played at least 152 games in six of his nine seasons. He played 145 games during his AL Rookie of the Year season in 2014 and 128 in 2018 because of two injuries in the second half. Abreu played in all 60 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and led the Sox with 157 games in 2022.
When he was in the lineup, he produced. Abreu is fifth on the team’s all-time list with 863 RBIs.
He became the second Sox player to lead the AL in RBIs in a season, finishing with 123 in 2019. Dick Allen was the first to accomplish the feat with 113 in 1972.
Abreu again led the league in 2020 with 60 RBIs, becoming the first player to lead the AL in consecutive seasons since David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox in 2005-06. He was also the first qualifying player to record as many RBIs as games played since the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa (160) and Cleveland’s Juan González (140) in 2001.
“My approach in the (RBI) situation is to battle, battle to drive in the runs and do the best,” Abreu said in 2021. “That has to be the mindset in the middle of the lineup. You need to drive in a run. In those situations you have to battle to do it.”
Abreu is 10th on the team’s all-time list with 1,445 hits, fifth with 561 extra-base hits and sixth with 304 doubles.
He led the AL during his MVP season in hits (76), RBIs (60), slugging percentage (.617), extra-base hits (34) and total bases (148). He was second with 19 home runs and 167 weighted runs created-plus (wRC+).
It was the fifth time a Sox player earned the MVP honor, joining Nellie Fox (1959), Allen (1972) and Frank Thomas (1993-94).
“It was a good thing because you feel like you did something special, not just for you but for the people who are around you, for all those guys,” Abreu said the day after winning the award.
He felt that support from fans, a point he drove home before his final game in 2022.
“Up to now it’s been very special,” Abreu said on Oct. 4, “and I’m going to be forever grateful for them.”