JUPITER, Fla. — Peter Bourjos figured a friendly game or two of pingpong would be a good way to introduce himself to the guys on his new team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
He didn’t necessarily want to win them all.
"I really didn’t want to do that," the smiling Bourjos said. "I was hoping somebody would beat me."
The right-handed hitting centerfielder was acquired by the National League champions as part of a four-player trade that sent 2011 World Series MVP and hometown favorite David Freese to Anaheim. He’ll compete for playing time with — or complement — left-handed hitting Jon Jay, who hit .276 last season but only .220 against lefties.
"Any time you walk into a new clubhouse you don’t know what to expect," said Bourjos, who spent some time in the batting cage and fielded fly balls. "Everybody’s treated me extremely well. They kind of welcomed me right in. I feel like I’ve been here a couple years."
A .251 career hitter, Bourjos brings the kind of speed to the outfield the Cardinals haven’t had lately. That could prove a necessity with less-nimble sluggers Matt Holliday and Alan Craig manning left and right fields, respectively.
"I’m looking forward to seeing that type of player on this club," St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said. "If you think about the elite defense and pure speed element of what he brings, that is something that we are not used to seeing day in and day out."
Manager Mike Matheny prefers to give position players, many of whom come from the north and haven’t hit outside of a cage in months, some time to acclimate to their new surroundings prior to forming opinions.
"He’s going to want to impress," Matheny said of Bourjos. "He’s going to want to show what he can do. I’m excited to give him a couple days and once everybody gets here we are going to watch closely."
Bourjos will earn playing time with his defensive ability alone. How well he can produce at the plate will likely dictate whether he wins the center field job outright or begins the season in a platoon with Jay.
In 2011, his only major league season with more than 500 at-bats, Bourjos hit .271, scored 72 runs and led the American League in triples with 11. He hasn’t earned more than 181 at-bats in any of his three other seasons.
"I have to play my game, not try to do too much — just try to be an aggressive player on defense and then be a patient hitter when I’m hitting," he said. "I’ve got to be able to take some walks when I can and have good at-bats — consistent at bats."
He also wants to run. Bourjos stole a career-high 22 bases in 2011. He hopes to eclipse that mark this season.
"I’d like to steal as many bases as I can and that’s all going to depend on how much I’m playing and how I’m swinging the bat," Bourjos said. "Hopefully it’s in the 30s or 40s, but I don’t know."