“I’m very grateful for the 9 years” – The Denver Post

José Abreu gave Gavin Sheets a big hug before starting batting practice Thursday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

A few minutes later, Eloy Jiménez and Yasmani Grandal watched from behind the cage as Abreu landed a few shots. Minutes after the session ended, Abreu received a hug from Lance Lynn near the Houston Astros dugout.

Abreu enjoyed reuniting with his former teammates before making his Astros debut against the Chicago White Sox. Abreu went 1 for 4 in a 3-2 loss to the Sox.

“I respect the guys there and they treat me with respect too,” Abreu said through an interpreter ahead of Thursday’s game. “The only thing I can hope for is that they are healthy all season.

“Just because I’m wearing a different uniform on the pitch doesn’t mean I’m not going to have respect for them. A lot of these guys are friends of mine. Some I didn’t know either. But respect is still there.

Abreu, who ranks in the top 10 on the Sox’s all-time list in multiple offensive categories and was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player of 2020, began a new chapter in his career on Thursday. After nine seasons with the Sox, Abreu signed a three-year contract with the Astros in the offseason.

“I’m very grateful for the nine years I spent there in the organization, grateful for all the people I met there along the way,” Abreu said. “But it’s part of life and plans (of God) and God knows what he’s doing.

“I am ready for this challenge. God knows why he does what he does and he put me here today against the White Sox, he must have a plan.

Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday that he saw 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’s probably going to settle into more normalcy. But at first yes, it’s definitely going to be weird.

“He has played a huge role in the past nine years of White Sox history and he will certainly be remembered as one of the best White Sox in our long history.”

Abreu had a big smile on his face and shouted “Ooof” when he heard Jordan’s name.

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s a big comparison, Jordan is Jordan,” Abreu said. “I have the greatest respect, but I am entering a new stage in my life and a new stage in my career.”

His former teammates wished Abreu success – up to a point.

“He taught me a lot,” Sox shortstop Tim Anderson said Wednesday. “I’m going to be excited to play against him. I hope he will have a good season, but not against us.

Abreu used to play first base while Lynn, Dylan Cease and Lucas Giolito pitched. Now it will be in the box in front of them.

“It’s part of the game,” Abreu said. “Over the years you will have to face many people that you are friends with. The only thing I can say is obviously good luck to them and I just want them all to be healthy.

Abreu, 36, doesn’t come into the season feeling like he has something to prove to the Sox after signing the multi-year contract.

“I have no hard feelings towards anyone there,” he said. “I think the only people I need to prove I can still do it to are my wife and my mum, and I think they’re with me that I still have a few good years left.”

Abreu looked back warmly on his time with the Sox and anticipated the next challenge.

“I’ve always said that I’m very grateful for everything that happened while I was with the White Sox,” Abreu said. “They gave me the opportunity to be a major leaguer and make my family happy.

“Now we are on the other side, so I try to enjoy the game as much as possible and let the better team win.”


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