CLEARWATER, Fla. – For the first time in eight years, Bobby Abreu walked into the Phillies’ spring training clubhouse Sunday.
Back in 2006, he was still one of the team’s main men. Now, he’s a non-roster player on a tryout, a veteran trying to keep his career alive as a reserve player with the team he starred for from 1998 to 2006.
“I just love this game and I feel I can still play,” Abreu said. “I think I still have more in the tank. I just have to go out and show them. It’s an opportunity. I’ll try to do my best and show them I can still play. That’s it.”
Abreu, who turns 40 on March 11, did not get a major-league offer last year so he sat out after 17 years in the majors. He continued to work out in his native Venezuela and played well enough there this winter that several teams tried to sign him to a minor-league deal. He signed one with the Phillies in January and will get a chance this spring to win a job as the left-handed bat the team would like to have on its bench.
If Abreu succeeds in making the club, he could very well be in the team’s opening day lineup March 31 at Texas. That is an interleague game. The Phillies will need a designated hitter against right-hander Yu Darvish.
That’s far off in the distance. For now, Abreu is intent on proving himself over the next six weeks.
“I believe in myself,” he said. “I know what I can do. I know I’m not the same as I was when I was 25, 26, but I’m still fine. I can still hit and I can still steal bases and run pretty good. I can still play the outfield.”
Abreu has had a remarkable career with 2,437 hits, 287 home runs and 399 stolen bases in 17 seasons. He ranks 22nd all-time with 1,456 walks and 23rd with 565 doubles. His career on-base percentage (.396) ranks 77th all-time.
Abreu needs just 13 homers and one stolen base to join Barry and Bobby Bonds as the only players with 300 homers and 400 stolen bases.
“Right now I’m just concentrating on playing baseball and having fun,” Abreu said. “I’m not going to look at the numbers right now.”
Abreu always liked his time in Philadelphia. In fact, he still owns a home in South Jersey. He made two All-Star teams with the Phillies, but was gone by the time the club blossomed into a five-time division winner from 2007 to 2011 and World Series champion in 2008. Abreu has never been to a World Series.
“I was always happy for these guys,” he said. “I never had the chance to make the playoffs here. I hope it can happen.”
First, Abreu has to make the club. After a year out of baseball, he’s happy for that chance.
“I’m going to enjoy this like you have no idea,” he said.