Bourjos ready for a bounce-back 2013 season
Peter Bourjos has been the subject of more rumors than Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. The fact he’s still a member of the Angels just one month before spring training begins is arguably one of the more surprising developments of the offseason, as stunning as last month’s signing of Josh Hamilton.
It figured that Bourjos would be gone by now, just as it figured he would be traded by last season’s trade deadline. But as they say, the best trades are sometimes those that aren’t made, and although there were plenty of chances, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto resisted.
Maybe this was all a part of Dipoto’s plan. At any point since the end of last season, he could have traded Bourjos, his most valuable trading commodity, for the right pitcher. But if he didn’t, he always had Bourjos as a piece of what is probably the best defensive outfield in baseball: Mike Trout in left, Bourjos in center and Hamilton in right.
So for now, Bourjos can breathe easier, knowing that a tumultuous 2012 season is behind him and that the upcoming year is full of promise and possibilities.
“It was tough,” Bourjos said about last season. “I didn’t play as much as I wanted, but I got through that. Then at the end of the (season), it looked like they had committed to going with Trout, myself and (Mark) Trumbo in the outfield. Then they signed Hamilton and I didn’t know what was going on. But I stayed positive. I felt like either way it was going to work out, whether I was going to stay with the Angels or get another opportunity somewhere else.
“It ended up working out where I’m still with the Angels, and that’s where I want to be.”
Bourjos, who turns 26 in March, has endured a career’s worth of uncertainty. Worse than that, he rarely got a chance to prove his value to the team in 2012. He hit .167 in April as the Angels floundered and manager Mike Scioscia tried to squeeze in playing time for all his outfielders, particularly Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells. When the team struggled to an 8-15 start, Trout was summoned from the minors to bring energy to a lifeless club — and it was essentially the beginning of the end of Bourjos’ season.
“I think I started off 6 for 20, which is all right, and then I had about another 20 at-bats before Trout got called up, and that was basically it,” he said. “I was probably playing two or three times a week, and I never felt comfortable at that point to get any rhythm in the batter’s box. Trout did what he did, Trumbo was doing what he was doing, Torii (Hunter) had the best year batting average-wise of his career. It’s tough to argue with them going with those guys.”
While Trout flourished and Hunter found a hitting groove, there was little room for Bourjos, except as a defensive replacement and occasional pinch runner. Over the final two months of the season, he totaled just 10 at-bats. He had one base hit after July 30.
Any chance to get his rhythm at the plate was gone. Any hope to help the Angels get back in the American League West race failed to materialize.
“It was hard,” he said. “I just kept working hard in the (batting) cage and hoped to get an opportunity. I went on the DL too where I got to play six days in Salt Lake, and it was nice going down there and getting to play every day. I was able to get my rhythm back.”
Bourjos’ name was the one most mentioned as trade bait for pitcher Zack Greinke in late July, but Dipoto convinced the Milwaukee Brewers to take three minor league players instead. When the Angels signed Hamilton in mid-December to a $125-million, five-year free-agent deal, it created a bottleneck in the outfield that figured to push out Bourjos again. Trumbo had been penciled in to take over in right after Hunter signed with the Detroit Tigers.
But the Angels traded designated hitter Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for left-handed starter Jason Vargas, clearing a spot for Trumbo to move to DH. Once more, Bourjos was spared.
When the season ended, Bourjos and his girlfriend headed straight to Maui for a vacation with Angels teammate Hank Conger and Conger’s girlfriend. Bourjos needed a mental break after the season he had, but it wasn’t necessarily to clear his mind from a crazy summer.
“I didn’t really feel I needed to do that,” he said. “I had a lot of time to think, obviously, but at the end of the year, I felt pretty comfortable going into the next year. I felt like I’m going to be ready for this upcoming year.”
With the starting job in center apparently his, there should be a sense of contentment. But remember, Bourjos has never been granted a chance to settle into an everyday job, even after he hit .271 with 22 stolen bases in 2011, his first full season in the majors.
“I’ve never felt like the job was mine,” he said. “So I’m going to take it like I have the last six or seven spring trainings I’ve been a part of since I first signed. I want to go and compete and have a good spring training and earn the job.”
He’ll get that chance this spring. If everything works out as it should for the Angels, Dipoto will look like a mad genius for refusing to let Bourjos slip away.