‘I am very grateful for the 9 years’ – The Mercury News
José Abreu gave Gavin Sheets a big hug before beginning batting practice Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
A few minutes later, Eloy Jiménez and Yasmani Grandal watched from behind the cage as Abreu took a few swings. A few minutes after the session finished, Abreu received a hug from Lance Lynn near the Houston Astros dugout.
Abreu enjoyed the reunion with his former teammates before making his debut with the Astros against the Chicago White Sox. Abreu went 1-for-4 in a 3-2 loss to the Sox.
“The guys over there I respect and they treat me with respect as well,” Abreu said through an interpreter before Thursday’s game. “The only thing I can hope for is they are healthy all season.
“Just because I am in a different uniform across the field doesn’t mean I’m not going to have respect for them. A lot of those guys are friends of mine. Some I didn’t get to know as well. But the respect is still there.”
Abreu, who ranks in the top 10 on the Sox all-time list in several offensive categories and was voted the American League Most Valuable Player in 2020, began a new chapter of his career Thursday. After nine seasons with the Sox, Abreu signed a three-year deal with the Astros in the offseason.
“I am very grateful for the nine years I spent over there in the organization, grateful for all the people I met over there along the way,” Abreu said. “But that’s part of life and part of (God’s) plans and God knows what he does.
“I’m ready for that challenge. God knows why he does what he does and he put me today here against the White Sox, he must have a plan.”
Sox general manager Rick Hahn on Wednesday said of seeing Abreu in another uniform: “It’s like seeing Jordan in a Wizards uniform.”
“It’s going to look weird,” Hahn said. “After probably the first pitch or the first AB when he’s up there, it’ll probably settle in to more normalcy. But initially yes, it’s definitely going to be weird.
“He played a huge part in the last nine years of White Sox history and he certainly will always be remembered as one of the finer White Sox in our long history.”
Abreu had a big smile on his face and yelled “Ooof” when he heard Jordan’s name.
“I’m going to be honest with you that is a big comparison, Jordan is Jordan,” Abreu said. “I have the utmost respect, but I’m entering a new stage of my life and new stage of my career.”
His former teammates were wishing Abreu success — to a point.
“He taught me a lot,” Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said Wednesday. “I’m going to be excited to play against him. Hopefully he has a great season, but not against us.”
Abreu had been accustomed to playing at first base while the likes of Lynn, Dylan Cease and Lucas Giolito pitched. Now he’ll be in the box facing them.
“It’s just part of the game,” Abreu said. “Throughout the years you’re going to need to face a lot of people that you are friends with. The only thing I can say is obviously best of luck to them and I just want them all to be healthy.”
Abreu, 36, doesn’t enter the season feeling he has anything to prove to the Sox after signing the multiyear deal.
“I don’t have any resentment toward anybody there,” he said. “I think the only people that I need to prove to that I can still do it is my wife and my mother, and I think they are with me that I still have a couple good years left.”
Abreu looked back warmly on his time with the Sox and looked ahead to the next challenge.
“I’ve always said I’m very grateful with everything that’s happened that I was with the White Sox,” Abreu said. “They gave me the opportunity to be a major leaguer and to make my family happy.
“Now we’re at the other side, and so I’m trying to enjoy the game as much as possible and let the best team win.”