On Monday, the Cubs will get their first look at White Sox rookie sensation Jose Abreu in the first game of the Crosstown Cup.
Abreu will face Jeff Samardzija, winless in six starts despite a 1.98 ERA, and the White Sox will send lefty Jose Quintana to the hill, making his first start at Wrigley Field.
"He's a big dude," Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson said of Abreu.
Abreu swings a big bat. The first baseman set Major League records for most home runs (10) and RBIs (32) by a rookie in April, and enters the four-game Interleague home and road series between the White Sox and Cubs with 12 homers and 34 RBIs. Has Jackson studied video of Abreu?
"He's a big dude," Jackson repeated.
Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva agrees. Villanueva got to know Abreu this offseason when the two trained together in Coconut Grove, Fla.
"The guy was very dedicated, never complained, very nice, came in every morning and said 'Hi' to everybody," Villanueva said of Abreu. "The guy's a beast."
Villanueva faced Abreu in Spring Training and got him out.
"That doesn't count," Villanueva said, laughing.
The Cubs have a big guy of their own in first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was batting .400 at home, and entered Sunday's night game with six home runs and 16 RBIs.
"His approaches in terms of two-strike approaches and his approaches against lefties have been strong," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said of Rizzo. "Numbers-wise, he didn't have a bad season last year, but in terms of approaches, I think he continues to improve. I think he's gaining more and more confidence. He's hitting the ball to all fields, and he has the strength that if he gets a pitch to handle, he can drive it out of the ballpark."
Both Abreu and Rizzo are the type of hitters that pitchers need to be aware of. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm said Abreu reminds him of Josh Hamilton, who can have a significant impact in a game with one swing. Jackson, who will start Tuesday at Wrigley Field, prefers to concentrate on what he has to do.
"You focus on who's coming up at the time," Jackson said. "You focus on what you have to do and not necessarily the other person. It's execution. There's nobody in the game batting 1.000, so it's all about making pitches. You have hitters who are tougher than others and guys who can hurt you, but it's all about executing pitches. If you execute your pitches, you don't have to worry about the consequences.
"He's a big dude, nevertheless," he said.
On Tuesday, Jackson faces right-hander Hector Noesi, scheduled to make his second start of the season. The series shifts to U.S. Cellular Field and the Cubs' Travis Wood is slated to face John Danks on Wednesday, while Jake Arrieta makes his second start in the finale Thursday against the White Sox Scott Carroll.
Bragging rights are on the line in Chicago.
"When you're playing Cubs-Sox series, it's not exactly the playoffs, but it's not exactly regular-season games, either," the White Sox Paul Konerko said. "It feels different. Most players look forward to that, because it kind of gets you out of that rut of just playing games every single day."
Last year, the Cubs swept the four-game series and have a 24-23 edge in games played at Wrigley Field. The White Sox have a 26-21 lead in games played on their home diamond.
"It'll be a good series," Jackson said of the intracity showdown. "There are guys who can hurt you more [in the lineup besides Abreu], but he is a big dude and a power threat."
"The guy is pretty amazing, what he's done so far," Villanueva said. "I'm not surprised. His dedication in the offseason and his attitude was good. It's very difficult for [players] coming over [from Cuba], it's a big culture shock. I think he's surrounded by good people and that really, really helps.
"You root for him a little, coming over here," Villanueva said.
Maybe not this week, at least on the North Side of town.
White Sox: Dunn could play left field at Wrigley
Adam Dunn has been here before.
Interleague play moves to a National League ballpark, and the White Sox designated hitter moves to the bench regardless of how he is hitting. But these two games at Wrigley Field might present a different scenario for the left-handed slugger, especially with right fielder Avisail Garcia lost for the season and center fielder Adam Eaton on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura mentioned Sunday that Dunn could start a game in left field. Dunn, who has played 1,019 career games in left but only eight with the White Sox, took fly balls this weekend in Cleveland and is ready for the opportunity.
"I've played there a bunch. Yeah, I've been taking fly balls," Dunn said. "I'll be ready."
Cubs: Who's the closer?
At some point, Hector Rondon will be asked to get a save against a team other than the Cardinals. Maybe it'll be this week. The right-hander is 3-for-3 in save opportunities, and all three saves have come against St. Louis. On Sunday, Rondon took the loss as the Cardinals rallied in the ninth for a 5-4 win.
"[The ninth inning] is really tough, because I need to come in aggressive against the hitter," Rondon said.
Renteria hasn't officially designated Rondon as the Cubs' closer, preferring instead to say the situation is "organic."
The team has been searching for someone since Jose Veras blew a two-run lead on April 11 against the Cardinals. That day was Rondon's first save opportunity. Chicago's other options include Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm, but there haven't been that many save opportunities for the Cubs, who rank last in the NL with eight.
"That inning is not for everybody," Cubs catcher Welington Castillo said of the ninth. "[Rondon] is doing a good job."
• Abreu admits he doesn't know much about Wrigley Field or the crosstown rivalry.
"I don't really think about the park, the stadium," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox manager of cultural development Lino Diaz. "I don't study it or look at it. As long as we have good weather in the place, that's all that counts."
• Conor Gillaspie finished 1-for-4 with a home run during his first rehab game with Triple-A Charlotte Sunday. Gillaspie played third base in testing his sore left thumb, and he could be back as soon as Wednesday.
• Rizzo is batting .396 (21-for-53) in 16 home games. He's drawn a walk in five straight games.
• Luis Valbuena posted his third multihit game of the season on Sunday, and hit his first triple since last June 23 against the Astros.
• The Cubs' bullpen had given up two earned runs over 18 2/3 innings in seven games prior to Sunday, when the relievers were charged with two runs in three innings.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.