CLEVELAND — José Abreu routinely walks into the Astros clubhouse hours before first pitch already drenched in sweat. He’s known as one of the team’s hardest workers, spending lots of time with hitting coach Alex Cintrón in the batting cages located in the bowels of stadiums.
Mauricio Dubon #14 and Alex Bregman #2 celebrate with Jose Abreu #79 of the Houston Astros after all three scored on a home run during the first inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on June 09, 2023 in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I like to be in the cage a lot because you can’t make outs in the cage,” Abreu joked before Saturday’s game against the Guardians.
There’s some hope all that work is starting to result in fewer outs on the field.
Abreu had another two-hit game in Friday’s 14-inning loss to the Guardians for his first back-to-back mult-hit games in nearly two months. Even more encouraging was the three-run homer he scorched with a 107 mph exit velocity for just his second home run of the season.
He added his third homer of the year in the first inning of Saturday’s game.
Abreu, who has clubbed at least 30 homers in six different seasons, didn’t hit his first homer as an Astro until May 28, which meant he went 283 plate appearances between dingers, dating back to Sept. 13. However, since that home run in Oakland two weeks ago, his bat has started to show signs of life, even if he wasn’t getting actual results. He squared up more pitches and laid off more balls outside the zone, something Astros manager Dusty Baker has noticed.
“I’ve been getting encouragement for the last couple of weeks, and it starts with one,” Baker said. “Everybody wants you to all of a sudden go from cold to hot, but it usually doesn’t happen like that. It usually takes you a couple times longer from the cold streak than it is to go from hot to cold. It didn’t take three days to get in this mess, and it usually takes longer to get out. You’ve just got to grind and grind and grind.”
Grinding is nothing new for Abreu, but he isn’t ready to say his hard work has fixed anything yet.
“I really can’t tell you yet if I feel fully better at the plate now than before,” Abreu said. “(Friday), I felt a lot better. I’m going to go out there and try to battle every single game.”
Abreu has a lot of battling to do to get his numbers back up to respectability. His .223 average and .574 OPS after Saturday’s home run still ranks behind every Astros’ regular besides catcher Martín Maldonado.
Even if he moves up the statistical ladder, Abreu will be easy to find before games: Just follow the crack of the bat near the clubhouse.
“I always try to work super hard in the cage, regardless of the result I’ve been getting,” Abreu said. “(Astros hitting coach Alex) Cintrón has been doing a really good job. Cintrón and I have been working hard together and I think we’ve seen some of the results.”