Jose Abreu

White Sox rookie Jose Abreu has impressed Albert Pujols


ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jose Abreu has made a good first impression on Albert Pujols and it has nothing to do with his home run total.

OK, maybe some of it is based on Abreu’s massive power.

But Pujols, who met the White Sox slugger in spring training and has spoken with him again this weekend, said he’s impressed with how Abreu has conducted himself during his rookie season.

Abreu went to Pujols for advice in March and spent 10-15 minutes chatting with the three-time Most Valuable Player. Pujols downplayed the advice and said that the Cuban-born slugger would be on his way to big things whether they had spoken or not.

“He’s really mature,” Pujols said. “That’s pretty impressive for guys like that, having all that pressure. Leaving his country to come here to the United States and play and to be able to handle himself the way he has, I’m proud of him. I don’t know him that much but the time we spent, to be able to encourage him, I can see he’s really appreciative. I don’t want to take any credit. He no matter what, whether I helped him out or not, he’s a great hitter.”

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Abreu insists Pujols is just being modest; that his advice has been extremely helpful.

Before the season began, Abreu said he likes to study great hitters in his spare time. Pujols, who smacked the 507th homer of his career on Friday, is high on that list. The two spoke again before Saturday’s game and its clear Abreu holds Pujols in high regard.

“It’s amazing,” Abreu said through a translator. “He was taking (batting practice) and he stepped just to come out and say hello to me and talk to me, which is incredible. That’s one of the reasons why we admire him so much, the kind of people he is, the kind of professional he is. We talk about a lot of things and I’m very thankful for the advice he gives me. He’s definitely a person all baseball players admire and he’s a role model for all of us.

“He can be as modest as he can be, saying all of that. But I have to be thankful to him. He said some really good things to me that I follow and I know that they are helping me and they will continue to help me. He’s that kind of person. A modest person and a real pro.”

Pujols said he’d offer similar advice to anyone who wants it. But he also admits he could identify with Abreu having come to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic with a limited grasp of English. Pujols said he wanted to reassure Abreu that the style of baseball isn’t that different from home and he would enjoy playing in the United States.

“I was in that situation myself when I came to the United States,” Pujols said. “Just to encourage, don’t try to do too much. He’s going to love Chicago. He’s going to love that city. He’s obviously going to love that park. The park is pretty hitter friendly, but for him it doesn’t matter. He’s such a strong guy that he can hit the ball in any park from right field to the left-field corner. He was just asking me questions about what the pitchers were trying to do. I told him the difference between the American League and the National League is in the National League they challenge you a little bit more than the American League. They throw you more offspeed and they don’t want you to beat them.”

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Pujols said he believes Abreu is in good hands as he is not only surrounded by Spanish speakers and his countrymen, but also by “great leaders in Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.”

The National League rookie of the year in 2001, Pujols predicted before the season Abreu would win the award in the AL this season. Abreu faces stiff competition from New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but Pujols is impressed by the quick start of the White Sox slugger.

Abreu was named the AL player of the month and rookie of the month for April after he set rookie records for homers and RBIs, previously established by Pujols.

“Any time you have a guy like that who can take the field every day and help the team out is unbelievable and pretty exciting,” Pujols said. “The season he’s having so far, I’m pretty sure he’s just going to get better because the second time around he’s going to make more adjustments and the pitchers are going to make adjustments. But he’s a smart hitter and he uses the whole field.”

Playoff Reset: The AL Wild Card Game

Wild Card

Each day throughout the playoffs we’re going to be doing what we’ll call a reset. Not always a preview, not always a recap, but a generalized summary of where we stand at the moment and what we have to look forward tonight.

Today, of course, is Day One of the playoffs so we can really only look ahead, so let’s look ahead to what’s on tap in tonight’s one and only game.

The Game: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees, American League Wild Card Game
The Time: 8:08 PM Eastern. Or thereabouts.
The Place: Yankee Stadium, New York
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Dallas Keuchel vs. Masahiro Tanaka

The Upshot:

  • Dallas Keuchel is the Astros’ ace and may very well win the Cy Young Award, but he’s (a) pitching on three-days’ rest; and (b) not in Minute Maid Park, where he is clearly superior compared to how he does on the road. At the same time, (a) the Yankees haven’t figured him out this year, going scoreless against him in 16 innings and striking out 21 times, including a poor performance against him in the Bronx a month or so ago; and (b) lefty sinkerballer types are basically the platonic ideal of a pitcher you want to throw against the Yankees to drive them crazy. While, historically, pitchers going on short rest in the playoffs fare poorly — in the past 20 years they are 18-37 — sinkerballers and extreme groundball pitchers fare much better than most. It ain’t a perfect setup for him, but you gotta like Keuchel here.
  • Meanwhile, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka has made one career start vs. the Astros: this year, back on June 27. He got beat up, allowing six runs in five innings, receiving no decision. Those disclaimers about past performance not being indicative of future results you see in financial services commercials should apply to this and all other past matchup stats you see in the postseason, however. One random start here or there — or two in Keuchel’s case — doesn’t tell us a ton. This is baseball and tomorrow is always another day. At least if you don’t lose the Wild Card Game. More of a concern for Tanaka: rust. He has pitched only once since tweaking his hamstring against the Mets on September 18 and it wasn’t a good outing. At least he’s rested?
  • Both teams are dependent on the longball but both teams have struggled at times on offense down the stretch, with the Yankees’ bats being particular quiet in the season’s last month or so. Someone needs to wake up A-Rod. And Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Brian McCann for that matter too. Of course, all of that firepower may not matter. The playoffs often see offenses go quiet and pitching come to the fore. Both teams have decent bullpens — the Yankees’ far, far more than decent — and given Tanaka’s rust and Keuchel’s short rest, this one is very likely to come down to multiple innings of hard-throwing relief. That favors the Yankees if they can keep it close.
  • Both teams are basically stumbling into the postseason, with the Yankees having lost six of their last seven games. They’re also under .500 since the end of July. The Astros swooned themselves in the second half, going 11-16 in September before rebounding in the season’s last week. Good thing momentum generally isn’t a thing in the playoffs — remember those 2000 Yankees losing 15 of 18 before the playoffs started and then won the World Series! — because neither team here has much of it.

This is the Astros’ first playoff game in a decade. While the Yankees haven’t been in the postseason since 2012, there is a lot of playoff experience here, making this an interesting study in contrasts from a storyline perspective. At least if you’re into storylines. Personally I’m not. I’m more into baseball games and in this baseball game I think Keuchel is a tough draw for the Yankees, even on short rest. For New York to advance they’re gonna have to be a team they haven’t been for weeks and maybe months: one that lays off junk down low and hits the ball hard.

Mike Scioscia will return as Angels manager in 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 21:  Manager Mike Scioscia #14 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the dugout during batting practice before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 21, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

It was assumed already, but Mike Scioscia made it official during Monday’s press conference for new general manager Billy Eppler that he will return as Angels manager in 2016.

Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the majors, has been at the helm with the Angels since 2000. There was a clause in his contract which allowed him to opt out after the 2015 season, but he has decided to stay put. He still has three years and $15 million on his contract, which runs through 2018.

Jerry Dipoto resigned as Angels general manager in July amid tension with Scioscia, so there were naturally questions today about what to expect with first-time GM Eppler in the fold. According to David Adler of, Scioscia isn’t concerned.

“I think we’re going to mesh very well,” Scioscia said. “If we adjust, or maybe he adjusts to some of the things, there’s going to be collaboration that’s going to make us better.”

Eppler is the fourth general manager during Scioscia’s tenure with the team.

After winning the AL West last season, the Angels finished 85-77 this season and narrowly missed the playoffs. The team hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.