LOS ANGELES -- It was somewhere around three hours before first pitch Monday at Dodger Stadium when Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig, old friends and teammates, engaged in conversation behind the batting cage.
The two had not really caught up with each other since speaking during a Cactus League game in Arizona.
"We had a good conversation," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox manager of cultural development Lino Diaz. "We're planning to probably do something after the game, go and have dinner or something like that where we can exchange a little bit more.
"Down in Arizona in Spring Training, it was tough for us to [meet]. As a matter of fact, the only exchange I had with him is when we played them right before the game. I am very glad I had the opportunity to do more today and will have the opportunity to do more during this series."
Abreu, the White Sox first baseman, and Puig, the Dodgers right fielder, have different playing styles, but the Cienfuegos' teammates in Cuba both have imposed their immense talent on the opposition since coming to the big leagues. Abreu returned to action against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, after being sidelined since May 18 with left ankle tendinitis.
At the time Abreu was placed on the disabled list, he topped the Majors with 15 homers and led the American League with 42 RBIs, 103 total bases and a .595 slugging percentage. The White Sox finished 8-6 without Abreu, but even as he shakes off rust, they clearly are better with him back.
"I'm just ready to go and play some games," Abreu said.
"You become a little more potent in the middle of your lineup," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Everybody moves back one spot. He's a good hitter. Anyone would like to have him in their lineup. The way we've been surviving without him, you are just glad to have him back and it's a nice shot in the arm."
Six Cuban-born players are featured in this three-game series. Joining Puig and Abreu are Adrian Nieto, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo with the White Sox and Erisbel Arruebarrena with the Dodgers. Arruebarrena, who was also part of Cienfuegos, came to get Abreu at the team hotel Monday to spend some time together.
"That doesn't happen all the time," Abreu said. "It's a good feeling to have them here, close together."
Sale's game plan remains simple
LOS ANGELES -- Add humility to the long list of attributes possessed by White Sox ace Chris Sale.
Sale stands at 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA over 45 1/3 innings this season, allowing only 19 hits and eight walks to go with his 52 strikeouts. Left-handed hitters are 0-for-32 against Sale, which leads to fewer left-handers facing him, and Sale going more to his changeup this season to neutralize right-handed hitters.
But when asked to explain his dominance coming on the heels of Sunday's two-hit victory over the Padres, Sale first defers to other top hurlers in the American League.
"I don't have near the body of work of some," Sale said. "You look at like [Toronto's Mark] Buehrle and like [Boston's Jon] Lester, those guys are up in the 80 innings range and 12 or 13 starts. So, if I get to that point, then it makes it a little bit more cool, if you will."
Aside from much better raw stuff, Sale isn't too different from his former mentor and teammate Buehrle. They both like to fill up the strike zone and work at a quick pace, challenging hitters and giving the defense a chance.
"That's the key, throwing quality strikes instead of quantity of strikes," Sale said. "For me, it's just staying on top of stuff, trying to throw as many strikes as I can and go as deep in the game as I possibly can.
"Nobody likes to stand out there for extended periods of time. You never see anybody except for Nolan Ryan go out there and not fill up the strike zone and be successful."
As far as the flexor strain in his left arm that sidelined Sale for five weeks earlier this season, it's definitely a thing of the past.
"It's almost like it never happened, other than the missed time," Sale said. "That's something that doesn't even cross my mind anymore."
Semien to get opportunity to learn outfield
LOS ANGELES -- Marcus Semien has never played the outfield at any level of baseball that he can remember. But with Semien optioned to Triple-A Charlotte to make room for Jose Abreu's return and to get more regular at-bats, the outfield could be on his immediate agenda.
"I hope so. I know he's going to work on taking some fly balls and do things like that," said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. "Whether he plays out there will depend on how adaptable he is to being able to do it.
"Just to have the ability to do it, kind of stretch his range somewhat to be able to play all over the field, those guys are valuable to have. In the future, you might be a guy who plays in one spot, but for right now, it would be nice to have a guy who can play all over."
Charlotte has a logjam of prospect infielders in Carlos Sanchez, Micah Johnson, Matt Davidson and Semien. So working into the outfield would make sense for the 23-year-old Semien.
"It's a tough one because we like what he's been doing," said Ventura of Semien. "Where we are at and what we need, being able to have Jose back, we need some versatility and with Leury [Garcia] and being able to late in the game put Moises [Sierra] in the outfield most games, if you got the lead, go ahead and put him out there for defensive purposes.
"He's going to get some at-bats. He needs some at-bats right now to catch back up timing wise."
Struggling De Aza a focal point for criticism
LOS ANGELES -- Alejandro De Aza is hitting .173 with four homers and 17 RBIs, not to mention having a few miscues in both the outfield and on the basepaths. That combination makes De Aza a target of outside derision, but manager Robin Ventura said Monday that De Aza can't take the time to process such criticism.
"Anytime somebody's hitting (.173), they look at the number, that's a target," Ventura said. "That's just part of playing. You have to take it and understand you don't listen to it, have thick skin and just keep going.
"He kind of went through a rut. Had a great Opening Day and since then hit a rut. Lately, he's been hitting it pretty hard, he's been hitting into some tough luck. Tough luck happens to everybody and you have to be able to fight your way through it and he's going to have to be able to do that, even with going against the lefties we have."
Moises Sierra was in right field against Dodgers ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw on Monday, with Dayan Viciedo moving to left.
Third to first
• Adam Dunn is 8-for-13 lifetime off of Clayton Kershaw, with two doubles, four homers and nine RBIs. But Ventura felt Monday was still a good time to give Dunn a break and let him get ready to play the outfield at some point in the next two games.
• Sale laughs at the notion of comparisons made between him and Randy Johnson because of their build, arm angle and success.
"I only got like 278 more wins to go and then me and him are exactly the same," said Sale of the Big Unit.
• Alexei Ramirez entered Monday leading the AL with 514 innings played out of a possible 518.