Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — General Manager Jerry Dipoto called Bobby Abreu a week and a half ago to assure the veteran outfielder he’d have an opportunity to win regular playing time. Manager Mike Scioscia had a similar conversation with Abreu in January.
Abreu, who turns 38 in March, appeared expendable after the Angels signed first baseman Albert Pujols, a move that pushed slugging first basemen Kendrys Morales — if he is healthy — and Mark Trumbo to the designated hitter spot Abreu occupied for most of 2011.
But there is no guarantee that Morales, who has missed a year and a half because of a broken left ankle, will be ready to start the season. And Trumbo, who led the team with 29 homers and 87 runs batted in last season, could play 40 to 50 games at third base if he can make that transition.
So, there is a chance Abreu, the subject of trade rumors this winter, could carve out a role.
“We’ve had very candid discussions, and I expect him to get enough at-bats to contribute,” Scioscia said. “He wants to play every day, but he’s tempered that with an understanding of the potential of this team to win, and he understands the situation.”
Pujols, who played his first 11 years in St. Louis, doesn’t buy into the theory that it will be difficult to change leagues and get acclimated to new pitchers.
“Everyone is asking about that,” Pujols said. “The game doesn’t change. When I got to the big leagues in 2001, I didn’t know any pitchers in the National League.”
Some hurdle. All Pujols did that season was hit .329 with 37 homers and 130 runs batted in and win NL rookie-of-the-year honors.
“With technology and scouting, you get a good feed,” Pujols said. “I’ve also played interleague, so I’ll be facing guys I’ve seen in the past.”
AND YU ARE…
Pujols was working out at a Los Angeles-area gym Thursday when Yu Darvish, the 25-year-old Japanese pitching phenom who cost the Texas Rangers almost $112 million to sign this winter, walked in.
“He introduced himself, and he was a really nice guy, really humble,” Pujols said. “He said he’s looking forward to the battle. It’s going to be fun.”
Morales stepped up the intensity of his running program Monday, doing six 90-foot sprints at 50% to 75% of full speed.