Having gone hitless with a walk in his first two games in red, Bobby Abreu didn’t waste any time banging his first hit in an Angels uniform on Friday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Facing Rockies southpaw Greg Smith, part of the deal that made Matt Holliday a member of the Athletics, Abreu smoked a line drive over the head of right fielder Matt Murton for a double in the bottom of the first inning. Hainley Statia, who’d walked leading off, scored on Freddy Sandoval’s sacrifice fly.
In the top of the second, Abreu had his first misadventure in left field. A fly ball by Clint Barmes got up in the sun and Abreu couldn’t find it, letting it fall for a triple. But Fernando Rodriguez, replacing Sean O’Sullivan after a two-run Colorado first, struck out two hitters to escape without yielding a run.
Abreu made it two doubles in two innings when he hit a sinking liner in front of Murton that kicked away from him far enough to allow Abreu — always an aggressive baserunner — to scoot into second.
A double as his first Angels hit was fitting for Abreu, who has had 35 or more doubles every season since 1999, his second full season in the Majors with the Phillies.
Following a walk to Mike Napoli, Sean Rodriguez showed off his pop with a double off the wall in left, driving home Abreu and tying the game at 2.
Rodriguez, a superb athlete with big-time power to right center, has been working out at second and short exclusively so far this spring. But he is a natural center fielder who would love to expand his versatility by getting some time in the outfield. A catcher as a kid, he also feels he could fill in behind the plate in an emergency.
Wouldn’t you know it? The very first inning of his very first Cactus League game in left field, trying to get comfortable with the newness of it all, Bobby Abreu fields two fly balls.
Following two singles, White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin lifted a towering fly ball against Matt Palmer that drifted to his left as Abreu came charging in. He made the catch, but it wasn’t an easy chance. The next hitter, Jim Thome, lifted another high fly that got in the path of the sun. Shielding his eyes with his glove, Abreu handled that one as well.
In his first Angels at-bat, Abreu sprayed a ball into the left corner, foul, before flying to center. In his second at-bat, against Octovio Dotel in the third, Abreu demonstrated his discipline, taking the count to 3-0 before walking on a 3-1 pitch after a fly-ball RBI double to left by Hainley Statia.
Abreu hopes to play every day until he departs after Sunday’s game, giving him a chance to get acquainted with left field. Almost exclusively a right fielder in his 13-year Major League career, he has played left only 16 times — and not since 1997.
Few, if any, Angels players are as popular with teammates as Maicer Izturis, who might just be the nicest guy on our planet. He’s always in a good mood, always smiling, always optimistic. Even a few days after the surgery to repair a thumb fracture that ended his season prematurely last August, Izzy was upbeat, quietly talking about the possibility of returning for the postseason — and he almost made it.
Izzy was in the middle of an early-morning conversation on Saturday with Chone Figgins, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. It was the familiar, good-natured kind of dialogue that passes the time before the players hit the field.
“Look,” Kendrick said, pointing to the nameplate above Izturis’ locker with the No. 13. “Maicer has a new number this year.”
Izturis, ever so softly, mentioned that it holds no superstition for him, that he’s worn No. 13 in the past. He was No. 6 last year. That number has gone to Hainley Statia, who is among a half-dozen quality shortstops in camp. Bobby Abreu will adorn No. 53, with Brian Fuentes taking No. 40, Troy Percival’s old number.
When a visitor mentioned to Izturis that No. 13 has worked out all right for Alex Rodriguez, Figgins shook his head. “No A-Rod talk here,” he said, grinning.
Kendrick mentioned that Izturis packs some wallop for a little guy standing 5-foot-8, recalling how Izzy had homered in consecutive games as the club’s leadoff man last season.
“That won’t happen this year,” Figgins said, having established as his early goal a full 162-game season.
Izturis is sound physically and looking forward to competing with good buddy Aybar for the shortstop job again after they shared it in 2008, with Brandon Wood getting some time there with both players out in September.
Garret Anderson remains a popular topic of clubhouse conversation, players speculating where their former teammate will land. The consensus is that he’ll be a steal for somebody, that he has a lot of life left in his bat.