April 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Tony Paul

Around the AL Central: Pumped-up offense could help White Sox make run at Tigers

Six of Jose Abreu's eight hits this season have been for extra bases. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)

The White Sox? Really?

Yes, of all the great and balanced offenses in the American League, it’s the White Sox who are leading in runs in the early going — after finishing dead last in the AL in 2013.

That’s thanks to three guys in particular, two who weren’t on the team last year and one who only joined the White Sox for the final two months.

The big addition was Jose Abreu, the free-agent first baseman from Cuba who landed a six-year, $68 million contract — the largest in franchise history.

And so far, he hasn’t disappointed. While batting just .235, the hits he is getting are big ones. Seven of his 10 hits have been for extra bases, including his first two major-league home runs, both coming in Tuesday’s 15-3 victory over the Rockies.

Abreu, 27, also has a triple as well, and four doubles.

“He’s more than just a slugger,” manager Robin Ventura told the Sun-Times. “He’s proven that to us since spring training. His approach is a little more mental the other way. He can pull it. He hits it a long way if he gets a hold of it. It’s not just going up there, swinging as hard as you can. He’s just a good hitter.”

Same goes for Avisail Garcia, the one-time Tigers prospect who was collateral damage last July when the Tigers lost Jhonny Peralta to a PED suspension. Desperate for a shortstop, the Tigers parted with Garcia in a three-team deal that gave them Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox.

The Tigers didn’t want to lose Garcia, but they had no choice. Jim Leyland even said last summer that Garcia could haunt the Tigers for years to come.

Garcia, 22, has been off to a bit of a slow start this year, but busted out Tuesday with two homers of his own — his first multi-homer game. Now the White Sox will hold their breath awaiting word on the severity of a shoulder injury Garcia suffered trying to make a catch Wednesday.

The other big pickup came in a trade this offseason, center fielder Adam Eaton arriving from the Diamondbacks in another three-team deal. Scouts widely raved about the White Sox haul in the deal. Eaton, 25, has seven RBIs, good for second on the team, behind Abreu’s 11.

Throw in the power potential of Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez, Alejandro De Aza — plus the fact that past-their-prime sluggers Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko now have been reduced to platoon roles — and the White Sox figure to make some noise, maybe even flirt with a record close to Ventura’s first year on the job than his second.

Not saying they will push the Tigers till the very end like in 2012. That, of course, will depend on the pitching. They have one of the game’s best young starters, in Chris Sale, but are a mixed bag beyond him.


Omar Infante can’t catch a break.

For the second straight year, he’s suffered a nasty injury — at the hands of another player.

The Royals second baseman was hit in the jaw by a pitch from Rays right-hander Heath Bell on Monday night. He went down hard, and exited the field in a bloody mess. Fortunately, the were no concussion symptoms; he suffered a sprained jaw and needed some stitches, but it could’ve been a whole lot worse.

“Omar’s a tough kid,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We caught a break.”

It’s not, however, yet clear when Infante, 32, will return to the lineup. He continues to see more doctors, just for precautionary measures.

It hasn’t been the easiest transition to the Royals for Infate, who joined the team on a four-year, $30.25 million contract. He dealt with elbow and shoulder injuries all spring, threatening to put him on the DL to start the year.

He spent a good chunk of 2013 on the DL, after suffering a leg injury in Toronto last July. Colby Rasmus slid late into second base. He took out Infante, who missed more than a month.


With Michael Bourn starting the season on the DL with a hamstring injury, Nyjer Morgan has given the Indians a nice lift.

Signed to a minor-league contract over the winter, Morgan has seven hits and four RBIs through six games with his new team. (No word how his alter ego, Tony Plush, is doing.)

Morgan, 33, who can be electric and outspoken, had a good little run with the Brewers, before playing in Japan last year. He’s not sure what the future holds, but he keeps this up, the Indians will be happy to find out.

“It’s not in my hands,” Morgan told the Plain Dealer. “The only thing I can do is take care of my little part and do what I can for this team and this organization. Whatever role the team wants me to do, I’m all up for it.”


In what probably will be the only alcohol-spraying celebration for the Twins this year, manager Ron Gardenhire got a beer bath Saturday afternoon in Cleveland — following his 1,000th career victory.

That puts him fifth among active managers, and he’s just the 10th man to reach 1,000 with the only team he’s ever managed.