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Goss: White Sox's Abreu makes dream job even better for Providence grad

Published: Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 8:48 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP photo)
The White Sox's Jose Abreu is congratulated in the dugout after a home run against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday in Cleveland.

Mike Kashirsky knew he had a dream job as the left-handed batting practice pitcher for the White Sox.

This season, however, it has gotten even better.

The reason is the 1996 Providence graduate has had daily contact with Sox rookie slugger Jose Abreu. He throws batting practice to him on a regular basis. While the rest of the baseball world marvels at Abreu, Kashirsky sees up close why he is on the pedestal.

“He’s pretty unbelievable, to say the least,” Kashirsky said. “He has a pretty typical routine but what defines him is how he sticks to it. He’s very disciplined. Even if he gets a pitch inside, if he is up there trying to hit it hard the other way, he does it. He is pretty amazing to watch.”

Abreu entered Monday night’s game against Texas hitting .304 with 31 home runs, 28 doubles, a triple and 84 RBIs. He has a .361 on-base percentage, .627 slugging percentage and .988 OPS. He hit in 39 out of 40 games in a span that ended Friday.

He is among baseball’s home run, RBI, slugging and OPS leaders. Frankly, he is doing things few rookies ever have done.

Some of his homers have been tape-measure shots, in batting practice and in games.

“I’ll never forget when we were at Dodger Stadium,” said Kashirsky, a Lockport resident. “I knew he was good and strong. But he hit one all the way out of Dodger Stadium. I can’t even guess how far that had to be.

“Then we saw something in Detroit, where it’s 420 to dead center. He hit one into the camera well beyond the fence, which had to be 470 or 480 feet.

“The days he hits in my group [in batting practice] are great. When he’s in other groups, being able to watch and see where the ball lands is unbelievable.”

Yet, Abreu is not the type of hitter who walks to the plate planning to see how far he can hit one. That’s not him.

“He doesn’t try to hit every ball out, and he won’t,” Kashirsky said. “He is so consistent with his swing that he doesn’t want to do anything to mess that up. When the thing came up about the home run derby [at the All-Star Game], about him not wanting to do it, that was the truth.”

Whether it’s Abreu or one of the other Sox standing in the batter’s box, Kashirsky said his job is to throw to the barrel of the bat.

Kashirsky became manager of the Windy City Thunderbolts about five years ago. He moved up from bench coach, succeeding Tommy Thompson, now the manager of Class A Kannapolis in the White Sox organization.

“Tommy gave me good advice,” Kashirsky said. “Throw to the barrel. Just hit the target, wherever that is. A hitter has something he wants to work on, and I have to help him get that work in.”

This is Kashirsky’s second season as the Sox’s full-time, left-handed batting practice pitcher.

“I know the routine a lot better this year,” he said. “In that sense, it’s more comfortable. But we all have to work our tail off every day, and that’s not going to change.”

Kashirsky’s ability and willingness to throw batting practice keeps him busy in the offseason as well.

“On Jan. 5, I got a call from former Sox player Brent Morel if I would throw to a few guys,” Kashirsky said. “The guys were him, Gordon Beckham, Jason Kipnis from the Indians and Curtis Granderson of the Mets. We went to UIC where Curtis went and hit every day.

“I also threw to Garrett Jones of the Marlins a couple of times at Bo Jackson’s place in Lockport. Over the All-Star break, I worked at Curtis’ camp at UIC. It was pretty neat.”

Whether the Sox are able to contend for a playoff berth this season is problematical. But one thing they have done is introduce American League pitchers to the their rookie first baseman out of Cuba.

Kashirsky said because of the big man’s approach and discipline, the way he refuses to waver from his plan, results should keep on coming.

Imagine the lifelong memories he is providing his batting practice pitcher.

• Dick Goss is the sports editor of the Herald-News can be reached at

dgoss@shawmedia.com.

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