Abreu's influence on Sox is wide reaching

CHICAGO -- Alexei Ramirez has not only bucked his career trend of April struggles, he is having one of the better opening months in team history. But it's just getting overshadowed by teammate Jose Abreu.

And at this point, it seems hard to deny that the Cuban natives on the White Sox roster are having an influence on one another.

Ramirez has been in a downward trend for a few seasons, although it was hard to fault him for a rocky 2013 after his father-in-law was killed during spring training. He clearly is in a better place over a year later and it has shown on the field.

While Abreu has set major league rookie records for home runs and RBIs before May 1, Ramirez entered Wednesday's game tied with Paul Konerko for the most March/April hits in franchise history with 39. Konerko set the mark in 2002.

"Last year, everything was really in a pull mode for (Ramirez)," manager Robin Ventura said. "Then he started hitting second, started a little higher up in the lineup and started moving the ball the other way, then wanted to hit some homers and started pulling it. Right now, I don't think he really has a thought of what he's trying to do. He's just really trying to put it on the barrel, I think he's balanced."

By not thinking about what he is doing, Ventura isn't saying that Ramirez is absent-minded at the plate. It's actually quite the contrary. Instead of having a preconceived plan of where he wants to hit the ball, he's now hitting where it's pitched.

It's the exact same mindset that Abreu brought with him to the White Sox. And Ramirez doesn't seem to be the only copy-cat.

Dayan Viciedo also seems to have embraced the approach, which is what the White Sox have been trying to get him to do for years. Perhaps seeing his countryman do it finally showed Viciedo the benefits. Viciedo entered Wednesday's game batting .341, third-best in the American League.

"I'm sure there's something to it, since you're seeing guys take different approaches," Ventura said. "Jose's still a free swinger, but balance-wise and him hitting the ball the other way there has to be a residual effect. I know for Viciedo, it's very easy to see that size-wise the kind of player that they are.

"Other guys, as players you look at teammates and when they're doing well you try and cherry-pick as much as you can from them, look at how they're pitching them, look at where they're hitting the ball, body position and stuff like that. It has to have some effect."

The White Sox never claimed that signing Abreu was a way to influence Ramirez and Viciedo, but they weren't going to complain if it happened. General manager Rick Hahn has certainly witnessed just how much of an influence Abreu has been.

"I do think that when we initially acquired Jose there was a lot speculated about, 'Well, now they certainly need to keep Alexei and Viciedo in order to help Jose's acclimation to the big leagues,'" Hahn said. I'm not so sure that he's not the one having the positive effect on them."