Bourjos set to make most of return to starting lineup
Speedster was the odd man out of a crowded Angels outfield in 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. -- So Peter Bourjos' situation finally appears to be resolved. After a litany of mentions in the rumor mill and little action in 2012, the 25-year-old burner appears primed to be the everyday center fielder of a potent offense and a dynamic outfield.
But how much patience will the Angels have with him?
If Bourjos starts off slow, like he did last season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia may be tempted to go more frequently with the seasoned bat of Vernon Wells, seemingly making it crucial for Bourjos -- perhaps more so than any other player -- to produce early.
"I'm not going to put that pressure on myself," Bourjos said. "I don't know if I have to or I don't. I don't know what they're thinking, Scioscia, the front office or the coaches. But I'm going to go out, play my game, and if I get off to a slow start, I get off to a slow start. That's it. But hopefully I put together some good at-bats and help the team win. That's all I can do."
When you're a center fielder in an organization with Mike Trout, then get only nine plate appearances in August and September, then watch as your team signs Josh Hamilton, your name is going to be in trade rumors. But that was put to a halt -- for now, at least -- when Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto decided to part with designated hitter Kendrys Morales and acquire Jason Vargas, making the lineup younger and more athletic.
"At the end of the day, I don't think they wanted to trade me," Bourjos said he now realizes -- though it wasn't always easy to maintain that mentality.
"I think some of the media doesn't realize it or they don't want to realize it. They just keep writing stories and stuff gets thrown around the locker room. That's how it goes."
Bourjos showed what he's capable of in 2011, batting .271 with a .327 on-base percentage, 12 homers, 11 triples, 22 steals and some of the best outfield defense around. Last April, though, Bourjos hit just .167 as the entire offense scuffled, then lost his job when Trout established himself as the everyday center fielder. Bourjos finished the year with about one-third of the plate appearances he got the season before.
Now, Bourjos has to ramp it back up and get going again.
"It's a tall order," Mark Trumbo said of his good friend during the offseason. "But there's not a person I know that's better-equipped at doing it than him. With his demeanor and how even-keeled he is, he's going to be just fine. The biggest thing that I think he's got going for him is his speed. Speed doesn't go into slumps. Despite the fact he maybe didn't get as many reps as he wanted last year, it's not going to hold him back at all going forward."
One thing going for Bourjos is that the Angels simply don't need that much out of him. They already have a leadoff hitter in Trout, so Bourjos figures to start out hitting towards the bottom of the lineup. And even amid a slump, he'd be providing plenty of value with his defense in center field and his game-changing speed.
But how much patience will Scioscia have with him if Bourjos struggles offensively, given how easy it is to simply put Wells in left field and move Trout back to center?
"Peter has the ability not to have the pressure to have to bring a ton of offense, or be off-the-charts offensively, because of the premium defensive look he gives your team and how he can help you win games out there," Scioscia said. "Peter's a good baseball player, and if he ends up playing at a level he can, there's no doubt he's going to get a tremendous amount of playing time and give us a deep look in the outfield on the defensive side. If it is where other guys are playing better or you mix and match, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."
Bourjos lost some level of trust from Scioscia last year, but he apparently hasn't lost it in himself. The outfielder believes he can be the same player he was two years ago, or better, despite the lack of playing time he got a year ago.
Give him the reps, and Bourjos is confident he'll prove it to you.
"I just need to go out and play," Bourjos said. "I think I proved myself in 2011, and with consistent at-bats, I'm going to be able to repeat that. I believe that. I think I did that throughout the Minor Leagues. When I've had enough at-bats throughout a year, at least 400 or 500 at-bats, I've proven myself at every level I've been at. And the years where I haven't played, I haven't hit."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.