Abreu 'fine' with Angels' plans for him
Veteran slugger is slated to get about 400 plate appearances
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Perhaps it was merely a coincidence. Or maybe it was genius timing. On Monday morning, in his first appearance since publicly saying he'd prefer to be traded if he isn't an everyday player, the seemingly ostracized Bobby Abreu strolled into Angels camp with a Nike shirt that on the front, in neon green, read: "Skilled In Every Position."
Abreu, aging and in decline, is without one of those positions as he enters Season 17 of his Major League life, and now -- more so than ever -- has to be flexible. That flexibility began Monday morning, before the team's first full workout, when Abreu met with general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia.
Together, they came to what appears to be an understanding.
"He said I'm not going to be on the bench for the whole week," Abreu said, referring to Scoiscia. "He's going to find a way to play me."
Abreu likely won't play in 155 games -- what the two-time All-Star has averaged over the last 14 years -- but Scioscia will make sure he isn't merely a reserve player this season, possibly getting the left-handed hitter 400 plate appearances despite the volume of bats in his lineup.
The message, in essence, was no different than the one that had been relayed to him in offseason phone conversations with Dipoto and Scioscia. But Abreu seemed content after hearing it face to face.
Entirely pleased? Perhaps not. But content.
"I'm fine. I'm OK," Abreu said while addressing a slew of reporters at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "We had a nice conversation this morning, and it was very good. We talked about what we needed to talk about, how many at-bats. We're talking about 400. Like I said, it can be more than that; you don't know what's going to happen. But right now, Spring Training, I'm just getting ready to play, getting myself ready for the season."
Scioscia clarified later in a meeting with reporters that it would be 400 plate appearances, not at-bats -- a pretty big difference, considering how often Abreu walks. But Scioscia called that semantics; perhaps nomenclature lost in translation.
The point is that Scioscia sees a situation where Abreu can get in the lineup three or four times a week, either in left field, right field or at designated hitter.
"If you look at our outfield situation," Scioscia said, "and you look at guys that might get a day to DH or might get a day off their feet ... there are going to be starts in the corner-outfield spots to give these guys a little bit of a rest. I think that, if you add up all the numbers, there's going to be a chance for Bobby to play enough to contribute. Now, how many plate appearances it's going to end up being, remains to be seen. But I think Bobby's fear is if he starts to play once a week or twice a week, and it's going to be more than that."
But it's tough to envision that, right now.
Abreu, who will turn 38 on March 11, hit .253 with a .353 on-base percentage and eight homers in 142 games last year. The Angels already had their outfield set -- with Vernon Wells in left, Peter Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right -- and now the Albert Pujols signing has created a logjam at DH, where Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales would also be options.
Those who know Abreu well, though, would describe him as a consummate professional and not somebody who would make himself a distraction in the clubhouse.
Some don't even see his outspokenness about playing time as a problem.
"Some people say, 'Sit back, shut up and make your money.' No, Bobby is a player," said Hunter, a four-time All-Star entering his age-37 season. "I hate that he has to go through that, or whatever, but this guy wants to play."
Because he's owed $9 million in the final year of his contract, though, Abreu is quite difficult to move. The Angels had the parameters of a deal in place to send him to the Yankees in exchange for A.J. Burnett, sources previously confirmed to MLB.com. But Burnett utilized his limited no-trade clause to avoid pitching on the West Coast.
"It would've been an opportunity for me to just play every day over there as a DH," Abreu said. "It would've been a nice opportunity."
In speaking with ESPNdeportes last week, Abreu said: "I'm an everyday player, and can be in the lineup for a big league team. I'm not going to be on the bench knowing I can play. If the Angels don't have a set position for me, then the best thing they can do is trade me. It'd be the right thing to do. I'm not going to do anything sitting on the bench."
But while addressing the media on Monday, Abreu said those statements were "no ultimatum," and his focus now is solely on helping the Angels.
"It's not like I'm looking to be traded," he added.
Abreu also wants to win. Two years after he left the Phillies, they won the World Series. And the year after he left the Yankees to join the Angels, in 2009, they won it all, too.
"We have a winning team, right now, and I think we have a lot of opportunities to win a ring right here, and that's one of the things you're looking for," Abreu said. "I'm looking for a ring in my hand. I've never had that opportunity."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.