Pregame work at SS, 3B helped Abreu at 1B

Pregame work at SS, 3B helped Abreu at 1B

CLEVELAND -- The improved defensive play from Jose Abreu at first base during the 2017 campaign stems from the White Sox stalwart's daily work at shortstop or third base during batting practice.

"That was a recommendation from Super Joe," Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo of the advice he received from bench coach Joe McEwing. "He told me that I should try to take ground balls in different positions because that's something that helps you to be more flexible and agile in your position at first base."

"We have fun with it," White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said of Abreu taking ground balls with the middle infielders. "You can see that he has improved [at first base]. He's pretty good with his feet to be a big guy."

McEwing's idea actually first played out at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. And it was geared to improving Abreu's footwork.

It was a random day during Spring Training when McEwing asked Abreu to arrive early, which wasn't a taxing request for the tireless worker. They went to the outfield grass, and McEwing wanted Abreu to "be a boxer" or "salsa dance" in terms of his movement during the drill.

"I tried to explain what I meant by it, and it was just for drill sake, just keep your feet moving constantly," McEwing said. "Don't stop your feet. And so we went out in the outfield, and after about 10 balls, he goes, 'OK, I get it. I understand.'

"So every day during BP, he may take 5-to-10 over here. But every day it's shortstop or third base, so he has to constantly keep his feet moving and continue playing through the ball."

During his 10 years playing for Cienfuegos in Cuba, Abreu moved from shortstop to third base to the outfield before settling in at first base. He took ground balls at third base during his open workout for teams, which preceded his free-agent signing with the White Sox prior to the 2014 season.

There even was talk during the 2015 campaign of Abreu getting a start or two at third base as part of Interleague Play, a move which never came to fruition. But Abreu, down close to 20 pounds from his highest playing weight, seems ready for that challenge of moving across the infield from time to time if it means helping the White Sox.

"If this organization needs me to play one of those positions, I'm more than able to do it. Like I always said, I'm willing to do whatever this organization asks me to do," Abreu said. "Yes, it would be a little bit of an adjustment, but I always say the person who works hard is going to get good results at the end of the day."

"He has worked his tail off," McEwing said. "Didn't deviate from it one day. I couldn't be happier or more proud of him."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for 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.