CHICAGO — If there was even the smallest of doubts that José Abreu would continue playing baseball in 2023, the White Sox first baseman answered such a question with one word during a pregame interview session on Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Claro!” said Abreu with extra influence, which translates from Spanish to English as “of course.”

“I love baseball,” Abreu said through interpreter Billy Russo. “I love the game even more now than when I started.”

As to whether Abreu once again will be part of the White Sox? Well, that answer has far less certainty.

“I’m a White Sox right now and I’ll be a White Sox tomorrow,” Abreu said. “We’ll see.”

“He’s such a special person,” outfielder Andrew Vaughn said of Abreu, who went 1-for-3 in Chicago’s 8-3 win over the Twins. “It’s really hard to replace a guy like that. It would be so tough. He’s had such an impact on me and a bunch of the other young guys around here. He’s one of a kind.”

Abreu, who turns 36 on Jan. 29, came to the White Sox as a free agent from Cuba prior to the 2014 season on a six-year, $68 million deal, which stood at the time as the largest monetary total in franchise history. He agreed to a three-year, $50 million deal prior to the ‘20 campaign, and has arguably been one of the greatest values in franchise history.

Sure, Abreu captured the 2014 American League Rookie of the Year Award and AL Most Valuable Player honors in ‘20, to go with 243 home runs, 863 RBIs and a career .860 OPS. But as Vaughn mentioned, Abreu has been a clubhouse leader and a guiding force for so many White Sox players young and old.

“Look, he’s been exemplary in terms of what you want a White Sox player to be for nine years now in a White Sox uniform,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “No matter what the future holds for him here or elsewhere, I don’t think you are ever going to hear anyone with this organization say a bad word about José. Nothing but admiration and respect for the professionalism and the way he’s carried himself on the field and off the field.

“How it fits going forward, that remains to be seen come this offseason. Obviously, there’s only so many different ways that you can fit various players on the roster and José returning would have a ripple effect on others. But we’ll have to wait to see how things unfold and make those decisions accordingly.”

So, why would Abreu not be a fit on what the White Sox hope is a championship caliber team after this season’s frustration and disappointment? In Vaughn and Gavin Sheets, the club has young players who are learning the outfield and working diligently to develop in the position, but look better suited for first base.

In Eloy Jiménez, the White Sox have a left fielder who doesn’t want to become a designated hitter at this early stage of his career. But as he has figured out working at that spot in 2022, it ultimately might become his primary home. There can only be so many first baseman/designated hitters on a given roster pushing for success.

Overall statistics are still impressive for Abreu, who entered Tuesday’s contest with a slash line of .304/.378/.445. His RBIs dipped to 75 and home runs to 15, after six previous seasons with at least 25 homers and 100 RBIs, but he still can play at a high level. Abreu just might be doing that playing somewhere else, which he understands.

“I already know the process,” Abreu said. “The goal right now is just to finish the season strong and healthy. Once the season is over, take some time to think, rest. And we’ll go from there.”

“You just gotta watch him,” Vaughn said of Abreu’s leadership. “Watch what he does every day. It’s special and it truly shows.”

That special nature will be showing well beyond the 2023 season, at least judging by Abreu’s comments on Tuesday.

“That’s the perfect example to follow right there,” acting manager Miguel Cairo said of Abreu. “If I’m a young kid, I want to see how he goes about his business. Preparation. Discipline. You want to have 26 players like that.”

“I’m still hungry about the game,” Abreu said. “Once I lose that, then I know that it’s time.”

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