Jose Abreu on 2017 turnaround: 'I'm playing more like I know I can play'

Jose Abreu was upbeat Tuesday morning, saying he feels like he is in a “great position” a little more than halfway through the season.

Then the White Sox first baseman backed up his words, hitting a three-run homer in the fifth inning to give the Sox a brief lead in a 7-6 loss to the Athletics.

“I’m playing more like I know I can play,” Abreu said through a team interpreter. “I’m doing my best.”

Abreu was an All-Star in his first season in 2014 but hasn’t been back, and he went through a rough first half last year. His numbers this season have improved each month. He entered Tuesday second among American League first basemen with 55 RBIs, third with a .294 batting average and fourth with a .853 OPS. He pushed those totals to 58 RBIs, a .294 batting average and a .860 OPS on Tuesday.

But he said not being voted onto the All-Star team wasn’t a disappointment.

“I’m realistic, and I know there are a lot of players that have better stats than me,” Abreu said. “I did my best and I’m just working hard to help my team win games. I experienced it three years ago. No regrets for me.”

Abreu instead expressed excitement for teammate Avisail Garcia, a first-time All-Star who returned to the lineup Tuesday after missing five games with a sore left knee. Abreu said Garcia has “absolutely” worked harder this year and said being “stronger mentally” has been a key to his great start.

“As a teammate, I love that because we all know what he’s capable of,” Abreu said. “This year finally he has showed that.”

As for Abreu, Sox manager Rick Renteria said his success stems from a combination of focus at the plate and confidence in knowing he can overcome struggles.

“When you see him in the box there is an intensity to his focus,” Renteria said. “There is a relaxed aspect also. That’s what’s impressive to me. … He’s showing everybody there is no reason he can’t be the best.”

Health watch: Infielder Tyler Saladino went 1-for-3 as the designated hitter to begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte on Monday following back pain.

Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez is expected to begin a rehab assignment soon while recovering from AC joint inflammation in his right shoulder.

Leury Garcia is rehabbing from a sprained finger on his left hand in Arizona.

New addition: Closer David Robertson and his wife, Erin, on Monday welcomed a baby girl named Violet Grace, their second child. Robertson is on paternity leave for the A’s series.

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