Abreu invigorated by offseason family celebrations

Slugger's wedding, return trip to Cuba highlights of busy winter

Abreu invigorated by offseason family celebrations

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If Jose Abreu hits 40 homers, drives in 120 runs and contends for the 2016 American League Most Valuable Player Award, his regular season still might not equal the greatness of his past offseason.

Abreu and his fiancée, Yusmary, got married after the 2015 campaign. He also had a chance to be part of a goodwill tour to his native Cuba organized by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. It was his first trip home since coming to the United States and allowed Abreu to reunite with his son, Dariel, and grandmother.

"It was one of the best winters of my life," said a beaming Abreu, through interpreter and White Sox Spanish language broadcaster Billy Russo, speaking after Tuesday's first full-squad workout at Camelback Ranch.

The 2015 accomplishments for Abreu included joining Albert Pujols as the only players in Major League history to reach at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of their first two seasons. Last year's .290 average, 30 homers and 101 RBIs were made all the more impressive by the lack of any consistent protection behind Abreu in the lineup.

Todd Frazier should help greatly with that issue. But Abreu pointed out bench coach Rick Renteria as another important addition to the winning cause. Renteria brings with him big league managerial and coaching experience, not to mention being fluent in Spanish to help the Latin American players.

"For us, it's something very important," said Abreu of further bridging the language barrier. "It's special to have that kind of guy in the coaching staff because you feel more comfortable when you have to communicate with them. That's very good for us and very important.

"That's going to be something that could help us to get better this year. He's a very good coach, a great person. From the first moment that I met him, that was my feeling. Now I've been able to be with him these couple of days, he's a very good guy and we need that."

Mastery of the English language continues for Abreu, who worked on the process with his wife during the offseason. He can understand what his teammates are saying, but Abreu still admits to being a little squeamish in terms of carrying on a full conversation in English.

His expressed goal is to carry on an interview with the media totally in English. Before that point, Abreu has some work to do with his teammates on the field.

"Today, the first practice, everybody was happy and were laughing and making jokes," Abreu said. "That's the kind of atmosphere that we need here. We need to feel the chemistry and be like a family. That's something we need to build from here."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.