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José Abreu's post-collision return, homer inspire Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Not that anyone will be trying a case with the intent of finding out exactly how important José Abreu is to the White Sox.
But if anyone's looking for evidence to use in such a situation, search no further than what the MVP did Saturday night.
The White Sox lost to the visiting Kansas City Royals, the offense mostly silent. But Abreu provided some noise and plenty of inspiration with a fourth-inning home run, the RBI moving him into a first-place tie in that category among baseball's leaders.
But more impressive than another Abreu long ball, another Abreu RBI, was that it came not 30 hours after a violent collision on the first-base line in the first game of Friday's doubleheader. Considering how scary it was when the White Sox team leader smacked into Hunter Dozier and fell to the ground, staying there for a while as the trainer checked on him, the fact that Abreu was even playing Saturday night was remarkable.
"I don’t think anyone thought he was going to play today," starting pitcher Carlos Rodón said.
"No chance. Absolutely no chance," manager Tony La Russa said. "I even sent him a text, which I don’t think he got, 'Just be a good cheerleader tonight.'"
But that's not really Abreu's style.
The guy loathes days off, citing how mad it makes his mom when he's not playing. After needing to be helped off the field Friday, with his face cut and bruised and his knee banged up, too, it sure looked like Abreu could have been joining the White Sox other middle-of-the-order hitters, Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert, on the injured list.
That he was simultaneously saying he wanted to stay in the game, that he told La Russa he wanted to play in Game 2 of the doubleheader, it all told a different story.
Not that Abreu is a doctor, of course. The White Sox weren't going to play him Saturday unless he got the all-clear from the training staff. But this is a guy who has shown his willingness to give up his body for the team, a guy who said so many times that if the White Sox didn't re-sign him he would re-sign himself.
So once he got the all-clear, was there really any doubt that he'd be out there, back at first base?
"Sometimes when you try to explain to people just how special he is, you've got to give examples, and tonight was a perfect example," La Russa said. "The fight to come back and get in the lineup and get the two hits, that shows you this guy is rare, man.
"He's one of the better ones. As good as anyone you're going to find."
So for as many times as every member of this organization has explained Abreu's importance, here was arguably the most concrete example to date of his dedication and his attitude toward winning games for the White Sox.
He's mentored guys like Jimémez, Robert and Yoán Moncada to the cusp of major league superstardom. He's served as an example to everyone in the clubhouse with an unparalleled work ethic. He's been the biggest advocate for the future success of the White Sox rebuilding project. And he's produced at an unbelievable level, the kind that wins you MVP honors.
At this point, there's little doubt that his No. 79 will one day join the White Sox retired numbers or that his statue will one day join those on the concourse at Guaranteed Rate Field.
And it will be for what he's meant to this team. For moments like this one.
"You don’t want to say anything hurts when you see a guy just get absolutely pummeled and then come out the next day and say, ‘I’m good.’" Rodón said. "There’s definitely no room for excuses when you see that.
"I would say it motivates each and every one of us in this clubhouse when our leader steps up and says, ‘Nope, I’m going to play.’"
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