Abreu embraces new role with Angels
Left field, No. 2 spot in order are unfamiliar for free-agent addition
TEMPE, Ariz. -- For Bobby Abreu, the big adventure begins in measured steps on Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, where he'll trot out to left field in an Angels uniform for the Cactus League opener against the White Sox.
"It's always good to get started," Abreu said on Tuesday. "Before I go to the [World Baseball] Classic [to play for Venezuela], I'll play a couple of games here and get a feel for things."
The main transition will be moving to left field, a position he hasn't played since 1997 when he was stationed there for 10 games with the Astros at age 23.
"Long time ago," he said through an early morning, wakeup smile. "I was a young guy then."
Of Abreu's 1,799 Major League games played, only 16 have been in left. He has played almost exclusively in right (1,733 games) in a 13-year career, the past 2 1/2 seasons with the Yankees after 8 1/2 years in Philadelphia.
"I'm always working over there [in left], to get a feel and to pick up the ball coming off the bat," Abreu said. "You see everything in right field. In left, it's hard to pick up the ball coming off the bat from righties. You can see it from lefties, but there aren't as many of them."
There also is the matter of how the ball hooks off the bat from a right-handed hitter, toward the foul line. One quick, instinctive step toward center can take a left fielder out of a play.
"I'm going to have to play a lot of left field this spring," Abreu said. "I don't want to make mistakes in the season. I'd rather make them before the season."
Abreu will use the Cactus League schedule to coordinate movements with eight-time Gold Glove center fielder Torii Hunter. Abreu earned a Gold Glove in 2005, his final full season with the Phillies.
"Torii's going to help me a lot," Abreu said. "With him and Vlad [Guerrero], we have three aggressive outfielders with good arms who play hard. And we'll be together in the lineup, 2-3-4."
"Abreu" and "great fit" have been appearing regularly in the same sentence since he agreed to a one-year deal as a free agent worth $5 million, plus incentives.
"I love the way the Angels play the game, how they run the bases aggressively," Abreu said. "That's how I like to play."
Made to order
|Bobby Abreu has batted all over the lineup during his career. Here are his career stats in different spots in the order.|
Abreu has stolen 22 or more bases for 10 consecutive seasons. He is coming off a fairly standard season for him: 100 runs scored, 100 RBIs, .296 batting average, .371 on-base and .471 slugging marks.
He's a .300 career hitter with slugging (.498) and on-base (.405) numbers that make him -- along with his comfort in hitting with two strikes -- a perfect fit in the No. 2 spot between Chone Figgins and Guerrero.
"The biggest thing [Abreu] brings is offensive continuity," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's a guy you can bring to the top of the lineup with the ability to work counts, get on base and run the bases. We're looking at Bobby as a nice fit between Chone and Vlad. Bobby gives us a much deeper look offensively."
Abreu joins Guerrero, Hunter and Juan Rivera in what figures to be a four-man rotation for the three outfield spots and designated hitter.
Abreu is in an exclusive club with Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson as the only players to amass 200 career homers and 300 stolen bases while maintaining a .400 on-base percentage.
"Bobby and Chone are going to be doing some running," Hunter said, grinning. "Bobby's one of those guys who steals bags, at least 20 a year. He always hustles, and he's a clutch hitter.
"We needed a left-handed bat with some power. Everybody saw what [Mark] Teixeira did for our offense when he came over [last July 29], and Abreu is one of those patient hitters like Tex."
Guerrero and Hunter, as the likely third and fourth hitters, will be primary beneficiaries of all that action generated by Figgins and Abreu on the basepaths.
"Bobby Abreu is a tremendous guy, a great fit for our team," Guerrero said.
Abreu has been a No. 3 hitter most of his career. He has hit in that spot 1,211 times, compared to only 41 times as a No. 2 hitter, 179 times as cleanup man, 73 in the No. 5 hole and 158 appearances as a No. 6 hitter.
"Batting second is no big deal," Abreu said. "They know how to pitch to me, wherever I'm hitting.
"It's a solid lineup, [with] speed and power. Vladimir and Torii, those guys can drive in some runs. I can do my thing: get on base, score some runs, steal some bases.
"We're going to score some runs. With the quality pitching we have now, they're going to feel more comfortable on the mound and do better than they have so far."
A native of Maracay, Venezuela, Abreu has produced at least 100 RBIs across seven of the past eight seasons and has delivered 20 or more homers in eight of the past 10 seasons. He's extremely durable, having appeared in at least 151 games for 10 consecutive seasons.
"Bobby is a great fit for us with his athletic abilities," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "He can run the bases, he produces runs and impacts our lineup in a significant way."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.