- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - The first two happened in a single game in Colorado. There was a fly ball that barely cleared the wall, and then a screaming drive to right-center.

Jose Abreu quickly hit two more home runs against Cleveland. He beat Tampa Bay with a game-ending grand slam, an absolute laser for his second shot of the game.

Some 6,000 feet of homers in just six weeks, another successful mile in a well-traveled bridge from Abreu’s native Cuba to the Chicago White Sox. The big first baseman is punishing major league pitching while making a difficult transition to the United States look almost routine.

“I come from a place where there is very good baseball, but there’s nowhere you can compare that baseball to this one,” Abreu said through a translator. “This is the best baseball in the world. But the only way to achieve this, to come here and be successful, is to be disciplined, to have a lot of discipline, that’s the way you improve.”

Abreu looks right at home.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound slugger connected in Oakland on Wednesday to become the fourth player in major league history to hit 15 homers in his first 42 games, joining Wally Berger, Kevin Maas and Wally Joyner. He is batting .271 with 41 RBIs heading into a weekend series at Houston.

Abreu, who defected in 2012 and finalized a $68 million, six-year deal with the White Sox in October, is among the major league leaders in several offensive categories. Playing at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field, he is a legitimate threat to become baseball’s first rookie home run king since Mark McGwire for the Athletics in 1987.

“It’s just his strength, his power,” White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham said. “I mean he’s just strong. You can do what he does with how strong he is, because he doesn’t do a lot with his swing, his body to get ready to hit. He just drops the head of the bat on it and it’s gone.”

All that power has captured the attention of baseball fans across the country, but it is Abreu’s appreciative attitude that has quickly endeared him to his teammates. No small feat considering Abreu’s arrival pushed franchise icon Paul Konerko into a reserve role.

“He’s such a good team person and you like to see stuff like this happen to people like him,” manager Robin Ventura said.

Abreu is the latest in a new wave of Cuban stars finding success all over baseball, and part of a long history of successful Cuban players in Chicago.

Sluggers Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland and Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers are two of the majors’ most dangerous bats. Cincinnati left-hander Aroldis Chapman has blossomed into an All-Star closer. Miami right-hander Jose Fernandez was the NL Rookie of the Year last season.

There were a record 19 Cuban players on opening-day rosters and inactive lists this year.

“I think clubs are learning more and more how to do it,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said.

Cuban players often travel a dangerous road to the majors. According to court documents in a federal lawsuit in Miami, smugglers who helped Puig leave his country on a speedboat have made death threats against him and against a boxer who says he defected with Puig.

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