Angels OF Juan Rivera looks to reestablish himself with strong winter league play
The Angels struck out in their attempts to sign left fielder Carl Crawford, who bagged a seven-year, $142-million deal from the Boston Red Sox, and barring a trade for another outfielder, they will enter 2011 with the less-than-stellar left field/designated hitter tandem of Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu.
Rivera, knowing his stock with the Angels dropped dramatically in 2010, took what he hopes will be the first step in reestablishing himself with the Angels, hitting .343 in 25 games for Magallanes in the Venezuelan winter league.
Rivera had not played winter ball in his native Venezuela since 2006, when he suffered a broken leg that limited him to 14 games with the Angels in 2007.
Rivera showed promise in 2006, hitting .310 with 23 homers and 85 RBIs in 124 games for the Angels. He slipped to .246 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 89 games in 2008 and had a good bounce-back year in 2009, batting .287 with 25 homers and 88 RBIs in 138 games.
But Rivera regressed in 2010, hitting .252 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs in 124 games, and he showed so little range in the outfield that the Angels called up speedy center fielder Peter Bourjos in early August and moved nine-time Gold Glove Award winner Torii Hunter from center to right.
Rivera split time with Abreu in left field after Bourjos' promotion, but with Hideki Matsui at DH, Rivera's playing time was drastically reduced in the final two months of the season.
Rivera, 32, is entering the final year of a three-year, $12-million contract, so his 2011 season could go a long way toward determining his future in the big leagues. Which is probably why Rivera got a head start in winter ball, where he had 34 hits in 99 at-ats, six doubles, two homers and 17 RBIs.
Bourjos also played winter ball in the Dominican Republic but with little success, batting .207 with three doubles, two triples, no homers and six RBIs in 24 games for Escogido.
-- Mike DiGiovanna