CLEARWATER, Fla. — Bobby Abreu sat out the 2013 major league season after not getting an offer that enticed him enough to play. He didn't sit around at home in Venezuela reading his statistics, though if he did, Abreu might notice that he was 77th all-time in on-base percentage and 60th in extra-base hits.
Not that he is a likely candidate for Cooperstown, but Abreu could have called it career knowing that he performed, with his bat, like a middle-of-the-pack Hall of Famer. However, with his 40th birthday about three weeks away, he's not going to quit just yet. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies because he still loves playing baseball.
"Age makes people think you cannot perform," Abreu said Sunday after reporting to spring training. "I feel fine. I know I'm not the same as I was at age 25 or 26. But I can still hit and steal bases and play the outfield. Pinch hitting is not a problem at all."
"I want to keep playing the game. I love playing the game. I'm going to enjoy this like you have no idea."
Coming off an age 38 season in 2012 in which he batted .242/.350/.342 for a .693 OPS, the major-league offers didn't overwhelm Abreu. He also needed time, Abreu said, to consider if he still wanted to play. Sitting out spring training and the first two months of '13 weren't a big deal to Abreu, but he started getting the itch to play again in June.
"Last season was tough — I didn't really watch much baseball on TV," Abreu said. "It was hard to sit and watch the guys play. You want to be a part of it."
He got some big hits, along with lots of attention from major league scouts, playing winter league ball in Venezuela. Abreu managed to persuade the Phillies that he could help. His .350 on-base percentage in '12 would have been second-best on the Phillies in 2013 after Chase Utley's .358.
With Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Marlon Byrd figuring to start most of the games in the outfield, the Phillies don't have an everyday spot open for anyone else. But Abreu figures to get playing time as a reserve if spring training goes reasonably well. He looks forward to having another chance to play for the same team with whom he established himself in the majors.
"I have more left in the tank," Abreu said.
Eight years ago, the Phillies traded Bobby Abreu to the Yankees in order make way for Shane Victorino. He, along with the other young players of Philly's core — Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels — were about to win five straight NL East titles and a World Series in 2008. Though he went to the playoffs twice with the Yankees (and again with the Angels in 2009), Abreu missed the Phillies success.
"I was happy for them, though," Abreu said. "You still feel like you were a part of them getting to that point."
With the Phillies coming off 89 losses and three years removed from their most recent playoff appearance, Abreu appears to be back just in time for them to be a second-tier team again. Abreu still has great memories of being a Phillie, even even though he might not have been appreciated as much as he should have been. One reporter reminded him that was booed by some when the Yankees came to Citizens Bank Park for interleague play.
Meh, he said. Abreu doesn't really remember or think about the boos. Besides, getting booed in Philly is like getting hugged anywhere else. Abreu's memories tend to be happy ones.
"A lot of memories," Abreu said. "My first home run at Veterans Stadium. Moving into the new stadium. The Home Run Derby (at the All-Star Game). Going 30-30. A lot of good memories."
And perhaps one more season, at least, in which to make more.
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