White Sox slugger Abreu eyeing healthy '17

White Sox slugger Abreu eyeing healthy '17

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As soon as the 2016 season came to a close, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu sat down with his family and had a conversation about what had just transpired for him over the past year.

"I wanted to explain to them how the season was because they know about baseball," Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. "But sometimes they can't register how the process is in a season as long as the Major League season is.

"We talked about it. I explained to them all of the challenges, the problems I had during that season."

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Once that meeting ended, Abreu officially put that '16 season in the past. His focus moved toward a successful '17 campaign, with one major goal sitting at the forefront.

"Just to stay healthy," Abreu said. He spoke following another rain-altered Spring Training workout on Sunday.

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This fourth season for Abreu with the White Sox certainly will be different than the last two in that the organization is working under a rebuild and Abreu stands as one of the veterans on the roster.

There's an obvious connection between the slugging first baseman and No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada. The two played together for Cienfuegos in Cuba, and Abreu will help guide the multi-talented infielder's early stages with the South Siders.

"It would be foolish for us not to take advantage of the fact that they have some familiarity with each other and they do talk a lot," manager Rick Renteria said of the Abreu/Moncada connection. "[Moncada] couldn't find a better example.

"Pito [Abreu] works very hard. He's always trying to excel and he's someone [Moncada] can watch by example, but also conversing with him and giving him a little comfort doesn't hurt us."

But the seasoned pro that is Abreu becomes a mentor for this entire young core.

"I don't know exactly how it will go," Abreu said. "But I'm going to try."

In each of his first three seasons, Abreu has hit at least .290 with a minimum 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. The '16 campaign was an odd one in that Abreu was strangely inconsistent through the first four months, including a homer-less July, only to knock out a combined 14 homers with 44 RBIs over August and September, while hitting .338.

"I've never in my life experienced some kind of struggles like I did last year," Abreu said. "But I'm in a better position now for this season because I learned from the experience.

"As you know, I like to study a lot. One of the stories I can share with you is: Everyone knows the lion is the king of the animal kingdom. His success is taking one of his goals in four tries, and that's good. If you translate that to the baseball field, if you hit 3-for-10, it's good. I can take that."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. 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.