Los Angeles Dodgers' Bobby Abreu fondly recalls time with Phillies

Posted: June 06, 2012

Bobby Abreu stood Monday in the outfield at Citizens Bank Park and took a look around at the 45,000-plus fans, the same Phillies faithful he had played in front of for nearly nine seasons.

And yet on a damp June night, as Abreu played in Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to the New York Yankees in 2006, so much was different.

Those were happy days, he said, even if his time here came to an end when he was labeled a poor clubhouse guy and shipped to New York for little in return.

Now he is with the Los Angeles Dodgers. And on Monday night, every time Abreu stepped in the batter's box, the boos rained down from the stands (though he received loud applause when he struck out in the sixth inning).

From his spot in left field, Abreu was only a few hundred feet from the whipping red flag with a white 2008 on it, a sign of what could have been and what hasn't been during his long career.

He wore a blue Dodgers jersey with the number 23 on the back after spending more than a decade wearing number 53. Even his blue cleats, with the number 24, were different. It's a story even he can't help but laugh at.

Apparently, Dodgers officials didn't know his number when he signed with the team in early May after being cut by the Los Angeles Angels to make room for Millville native Mike Trout. Or maybe, he said, officials just made a mistake. Either way, his shoes have displayed one number and his jersey another since he joined the team.

But after 16 full seasons as a pro, Abreu doesn't let that sort of thing bother him anymore. And Los Angeles will need his composure and experience to return to the type of club that opened the season 30-14.

"That's kind of my role," the 38-year-old rightfielder said. "We have a young team. I have no problem with helping some of the younger guys with things if they need it."

The Dodgers still own the best record in the majors, but they had lost eight of their last 11 before Monday's 4-3 win, and got grim news when Matt Kemp, the best hitter in the National League, went on the disabled list again last week.

The injury left a gaping hole in the L.A. lineup, but it has given Abreu a chance to show what he has left in the tank.

"He can make an impact for us in a couple of ways," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's still a patient hitter that can drive the ball. Off the field, he can talk hitting, which has been good for some of our younger guys and for our clubhouse."

Without Kemp, the new-look Dodgers have been playing a different brand of baseball. They are trying to manufacture runs and get starters to take them deep into games.

Los Angeles followed that blueprint in Monday's 4-3 win. Clayton Kershaw tossed a gritty seven innings, overcoming a third-inning hiccup when he gave up all three Phillies runs. And the Dodgers' plan of manufacturing runs yielded the game-winner in the ninth on Dee Gordon's leadoff triple and Elian Herrera's RBI single.

As for the man who hit the first baseball out of Citizens Bank Park in 2004, Abreu did his part, driving in a first-inning run during a 2-for-4 performance. And even if the Philly faithful aren't ready to move on from the 2006 trade and the ugly way Abreu's Phillies career ended, Abreu said he thinks positively of the organization and the city.

"They gave me my first chance," he said. "I'll always have good memories here - all good memories."

Contact Chad Graff at cgraff@phillynews.com or 215-854-4550. Follow @ChadGraff on Twitter.

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