Forget pitchers—the only thing that's been able to stop Jose Abreu so far is his own ankle. Baseball's latest Cuban sensation hit his second home run in as many days since returning from a stint on the disabled list to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.
After his first month and a half playing Major League Baseball, the 27-year-old rookie was off to an historic start and leading the sport with 15 home runs when tendinitis in his left ankle abruptly interrupted his season in mid-May.
"You don't want to get a guy off the DL and the first thing he does is go out and re-injure it and then you lose him for another 15 days," manager Robin Ventura told Scott Merkin of MLB.com prior to Abreu's activation on Monday.
Fortunately for Ventura and the White Sox—and really, the sport as a whole—that doesn't appear to be a problem in Abreu's case.
Despite dealing with an ailment that's bothered him since spring training, the former star of Cuba's Serie Nacional missed only the minimum two weeks and made his return in time for the White Sox's three-game set on the road against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It took all of one trip to the plate before Abreu, who won both the AL player and Rookie of the Month for April, got right back into the swing of things—literally. He homered in his second plate appearance Monday, off left-hander Clayton Kershaw, no less:
So what did Abreu do for an encore in his second game back on Tuesday? Only smack another two-run home run to open the scoring for the White Sox, this one in his first at-bat and off right-hander Dan Haren.
Just to summarize: Abreu missed two weeks with a chronic injury then returned to face one of the best rotations around—including two-time Cy Young Winner Kershaw and a guy with a 3.28 ERA entering Tuesday in Haren—and proceeded to smash two homers in his first five plate appearances in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game.
Imagine if the man were fully healthy.
Although Nelson Cruz (21 homers) and Edwin Encarnacion (19) passed Abreu for the major league home run lead while he was out, he's still in third place entering Wednesday and now has 17 after just 46 career games.
That ties a record that goes back, oh, about 84 years:
Speaking of records, the one for most home runs in a debut season is 38, achieved by both Wally Berger (1930) and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (1956).
The players who check in at third and fourth on that list are of more recent vintage: Albert Pujols, who hit 37 in 2001, and Ryan Braun, who hit 34 in 2007.
The season is barely two months old, and already Abreu is halfway to Braun—despite having missed 14 games. (Braun didn't debut until late May and played only 113 games in '07, but that takes nothing away from what Abreu has done.)
Berger also holds the record for most four-baggers hit in the first half of a debut campaign with 24. The White Sox's final game before the All-Star break is July 13, meaning Abreu has 37 more games to mash seven more to once again tie Berger.
As for the record for most home runs in a rookie season, that's held by Mark McGwire, who totaled 49 in 1987 after debuting in August of 1986.
While it might be a stretch for Abreu to match McGwire's mark, especially after having just lost two weeks of games, it's certainly not out of the question with the way he's been swinging all season long.
That includes these first two games back.
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