White Sox rookie Jose Abreu has impressed Albert Pujols

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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.”

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”