Phillies Notebook: Abreu enjoying himself already

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jimmy Rollins (right) and Phillies teammates report for spring training yesterday in Clearwater.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jimmy Rollins (right) and Phillies teammates report for spring training yesterday in Clearwater.
Posted: February 18, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - When he walked into the clubhouse for the first time yesterday morning, Bobby Abreu came in with an arm interlocked with Jimmy Rollins.

When he returned to the home clubhouse at Bright House Field following his workout since rejoining the Phillies, Abreu walked side by side with Rollins and Marlon Byrd.

Teammates a decade earlier, Abreu, Byrd and Rollins are together again as the Phillies attempt to bounce back from back-to-back underwhelming seasons and return to contention. Despite the degree of difficulty the Phillies will likely face, Abreu, who turns 40 next month, couldn't be happier to be back.

"Believe me, I'm going to enjoy it the way I used to enjoy it when I was younger," Abreu said. "I'm going to enjoy this like - you don't have any idea."

Abreu, who first joined the Phillies in 1998, is trying to reboot his major league career after a year away from the game. The former two-time All-Star (and All-Star Home Run Derby champ) returned to his native Venezuela after hitting .242 in 100 games with the Angels and Dodgers in 2012.

It wasn't until last June that he began to get the itch to play again. Abreu began his comeback trail in the Venezuelan Winter League in October.

Abreu hit .322 and a .416 OBP in 50 games with Leones del Caracas. When the league's postseason began, Abreu hit eight home runs in 15 games.

"I know I'm not the same when I was 25, 26, but I'm still fine," Abreu said. "I can still hit, I can still steal bases, run the bases pretty good. I feel fine."

Abreu arrived in camp with no guarantees. He's a non-roster spring training invite who will only make $800,000 if he's added to the major league roster next month.

It's a big step from the 5-year, $64 million contract extension he signed with the Phillies a dozen years ago. Abreu has earned just under $125 million in his major league career.

So why would be want to come to the Phillies to compete to be an extra outfielder?

"I just love this game," Abreu said. "I feel that I can still play this game. Whenever I see myself not feel the same, I will sit down and look . . . But right now, I still have a little more in the tank. So [I have to] go out there and show [it], because spring training is the best time you can show that you can still play the game."

Even though he's not on the 40-man roster, Abreu could be a favorite to land a job on the Phillies bench for Opening Day. With Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Marlon Byrd as the team's starting outfield trio, Darin Ruf, John Mayberry Jr., Cesar Hernandez and fellow non-roster player Tony Gwynn Jr. figure to be competing for a couple of bench jobs.

In addition to backup catcher Wil Nieves, versatile infielder Freddy Galvis will almost certainly be on the bench with either Kevin Frandsen or Hernandez as a second infield reserve.

Abreu said he simply wants to be a part of a team again, and that he'd be happy to be in a pinch-hitting role. But he also doesn't envision the next Julio Franco, the former All-Star who played until age 48 as a pinch-hitting reserve player.

"I don't think I'm going to play that long," Abreu said with a laugh. "I think it's a chance, an opportunity that I have . . . like I said before, to show I can still play this game. And that's it. Just go out there and have fun."


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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