MINNEAPOLIS -- Jose Abreu credits his return to the high level of offensive production he showed during his first two seasons with the White Sox to tireless work and help from three people in particular: hitting coach Todd Steverson and assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks -- who helped him with his approach and mechanics, and his son, Dariel, who he turned to for inspiration and family comfort.
But Abreu made it very clear on Saturday that his mid-season struggles had nothing to do with his five-year-old son's physical absence.
"I didn't hit because I didn't hit," said Abreu through interpreter Billy Russo. "His presence was huge for me from my offensive standpoint. But I don't want the people to think because I wasn't with him I wasn't performing well.
"It's not his fault. It wasn't something that I couldn't perform my best. It's baseball. Having him here was important for me. It was a little extra motivation for me."
Abreu went 0-for-4 in Saturday night's 11-3 loss to the Twins at Target Field, ending a career-high stretch of 29 straight games in which he reached base (since Aug. 2). Before it ended, it stood as the longest active streak in the Majors and the longest by a White Sox player in one season since Juan Pierre reached in 29 straight during the 2010 season.
During this stretch, Abreu is hitting .379 with nine homers and 23 RBIs to raise his season average from .269 to .293. Abreu's first four months certainly weren't awful; for example, he posted a .306 average, five homers and 21 RBIs in June. But he went homer-less in July, before turning things around to hit .362 with eight homers in August.
Many people believe as Abreu goes, so goes the White Sox offense. Those sorts of expectations don't put any extra pressure on the first baseman, even when he's performing slightly below expectations.
"There is motivation," Abreu said. "When the people have bad thoughts about you, that's good, because that means you are held in high consideration to them. But I don't think I feel pressure because of that.
"I've been using more of my hands and synchronized the movement of my hands with my eyes, chasing the ball. I have to give thanks to the hitting coach and Sparks because they were the ones who recognized my failures and found ways to fix it, and I think the results have been there."
White Sox manager Robin Ventura calls Abreu's turnaround "encouraging" and said it's good for his own sake to know that "it's there and it can come out."
"Now his confidence level is just at a different level than it has been the past couple of months because he knows how it feels and what he's doing when he goes up there," Ventura said. "It's one thing for a guy to go through something like that and not find it before the end of the season, and you have thoughts going into the next season, some doubts that other people might put on you. It's important for him to have that."