TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The subject of trade rumors in recent months, Peter Bourjos once against figures to receive the first shot at winning the center field job on a team loaded with four center fielders.
“You can’t pay attention to (the rumors),” Bourjos said. “They’ll drive you nuts if you do. This is where I want to be.”
And, apparently, this is where the Angels want him.
The Angels haven’t forgotten Bourjos’ 2011 rookie season when he hit .271 with a .327 on-base percentage with 12 homers and 22 stolen bases and patrolled center field so well that they moved nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter to right field.
The landscape tightened for Bourjos a year later with the 2012 additions of first baseman Albert Pujols along with the return of first baseman Kendrys Morales that clogged the designated hitter slot and pushed Mark Trumbo into the outfield.
The late-April return of Mike Trout crowded the outfield even more, and when Bourjos struggled to a .196 start he was sent to the bench in early May.
“I just felt that I never got into a rhythm at the plate last year,” Bourjos said. “I’d go 6 for 20 and then I’d go 0 for 15 or something like that. Mike (Trout) came up and did what he did. Torii (Hunter) hit for the highest average he’d ever hit. Trumbo started out hot.
“This year, I’m hoping to get some consistent at-bats. Last year, I didn’t get too many consistent at-bats. I didn’t feel that I got into any rhythm at the plate.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia hesitated slightly when asked whether Bourjos pressed at the start of 2012.
“Last year, when his playing time got cut, he didn’t get enough at-bats to get into any kind of groove,” Scioscia said. “It’s tough to gauge because of the inconsistent playing time he got.”
The offseason seemed to work Bourjos’ way.
Morales was dealt for pitching and the team opted not to bring Hunter back, clearing room for Bourjos to get back into the starting picture as Trumbo will move to DH.
Newcomer Josh Hamilton is slated for right field and Trout for left field, giving the Angels a starting outfield of all center fielders who are all strong defensively and have speed. Three-time Gold Glove winner Vernon Wells is also waiting in the wings.
“Right now, we’ve got the option to have a great defensive outfield without having to stretch some guys,” Scioscia said.