Bobby Abreu has not requested a trade, and Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto assured the veteran outfielder in a phone call Sunday night that he will be given every opportunity this spring to win regular playing time.
Abreu, who turns 38 on March 11, appeared expendable after the Angels signed first baseman Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $240-million deal, a move that will push slugging first basemen Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales — if he is healthy — to the designated hitter spot Abreu occupied for most of 2011.
But there is no guarantee that Morales, who has been taking batting practice from both sides of the plate and jogging in Arizona for a month, will be ready to start the season after missing a year and a half because of a broken left ankle.
And Trumbo, who led the team with 29 home runs and 87 runs batted in last season, has resumed only partial baseball activities and is yet to run since he received a diagnosis of a stress fracture in his right foot in late September.
There has been speculation that Abreu, a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder, would welcome a trade, but his $9-million salary and declining skills will make it very difficult for the Angels to move him.
And if Morales fails to return and Abreu regains his productive stroke, the Angels may not have as much incentive to trade Abreu, because he could provide valuable insurance.
“Bobby is an Angel,” Dipoto said. “Right now, he fits on our 25-man roster, in our clubhouse, on our team. Where he is in eight weeks is predicated on how he’s playing and everyone’s health. We have some unknowns with the health of Kendrys and the progress of Mark, but we know Bobby is healthy. As I told him, if he swings the bat like he can, we’re going to find a way to play him.”
Abreu entered 2011 with a career .296 average and .371 on-base percentage, and he averaged 17 homers and 95 RBIs over his previous four seasons, but he slipped last season, batting .253 with a .353 OBP, eight homers and 60 RBIs.
But Dipoto, who finally connected with Abreu after playing phone tag with him all winter, said he is not eager to trade Abreu.
“I understand what Bobby brings to the table — it’s a veteran bat with tremendous on-base skills and understanding of the strike zone," Dipoto said. "Did he have the same production in 2011 as he showed in his career? No. Is it a harbinger of things to come? We’ll see. But he’s a known commodity. Everyone is speculating on where all the pieces fit. I think there’s a good place for him to impact this club.”
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Photo: Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu follows through on a home run against the Boston Red Sox. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times / July 26, 2010