José Abreu’s first half was filled with aches, but the Chicago White Sox first baseman leans on his family for motivation to play through pain: ‘They are my strength’

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José Abreu has been involved in a nasty collision with a batter while attempting to catch a popup.

He has injured an ankle while scoring a game-winning run.

And he has been drilled in the knee with a pitch.

Those are just a few of the aches and pains the Chicago White Sox first baseman has dealt with during the first half of the season.

Abreu leads the Sox in several offensive categories. Unofficially, he ranks near the top of the list on the team for bumps and bruises.

His family keeps him motivated to play through pain.

“They are my strength,” Abreu said through an interpreter earlier this week. “I come here every day to do my best and to honor them and I know they have my back, they support me. That’s why I come here every day to play.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m in pain or not, soreness or not, I have to be there for them. My mom, my wife, my sons, they are my everything. That is the way I can honor them, that’s what I do. Plus, that’s also another way for me to be grateful and honor (Chairman) Jerry (Reinsdorf). He has done a lot for me and that’s the way for me to pay it back, play every day no matter what.”

Entering Friday’s series opener against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, the 2020 American League MVP is slashing .246./323/.444 and leads the Sox in home runs (15), RBIs (63) and slugging.

After hitting .182 in June with two home runs and eight RBIs in 23 games, Abreu has had a solid start to July. He’s hitting .290 with two home runs and nine RBIs in his first seven games this month.

“I just try to feel comfortable and I’m good with my body,” Abreu said. “The job that the trainers have done with me has been outstanding. Help me feel better every day, and that’s good. If I’m feeling good, I know I can do good things, I can perform and I think that’s the key.”

Including Friday night’s game, Abreu has played in 81 of 87 games — durability that is inspiring to teammates.

“He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever played with,” Sox rookie first baseman/outfielder Gavin Sheets said before Friday’s game. “His work ethic, he’s the first one here, the last one to go. Probably the hardest worker on the team. Just to see his preparation day in and day out, he doesn’t lead by the way he talks or anything, that’s not really his thing.

“He just kind of goes about his business, puts his head down and just works. It’s fun to sit back and watch that and try to mimic that.”

Abreu, 34, said he feared the worst when he was hit in the left knee by a pitch on June 27 against the Seattle Mariners at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“I thought it was a fracture because my leg was numb,” he said. “I couldn’t put any weight on my knee or lower leg. I definitely thought it was a fracture. Thank God it wasn’t. I recuperated very quickly, but it definitely was a scary moment.”

Abreu didn’t play in the second game that day but was back in the lineup for the team’s next game on June 29.

Even with the long list of painful moments, Abreu doesn’t look at this season as more physically challenging than others.

“I just see a learning experience,” he said. “Definitely there are a few weird things that have happened this year with me and with the team. It’s just a learning process.”

Playing for a first-place team also eases any pains.

“Winning is one of the sweetest things that you can have as an athlete,” Abreu said. “And then when you are winning, it doesn’t matter if you are 34 years old. You are winning. That’s something that motivates you.

“That’s what you work for because you want to win. It’s something that I don’t know how to describe it. If you are winning, it doesn’t matter. There’s no age that can stop it, there’s no pain. It’s nothing. You’re winning.”

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