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Angels' Bobby Abreu is making some serious career moves

Abreu, 37, entered Saturday's game needing one double to tie Lou Gehrig on all-time list, and if he keeps moving up the career ladder in several other stats, he could merit Hall of Fame consideration.

May 21, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Bobby Abreu, a 15-year veteran, had a career .295 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .485 slugging percentage going into Saturday's game.
Bobby Abreu, a 15-year veteran, had a career .295 batting average, .400… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )

Bobby Abreu will never catch Lou Gehrig in home runs, runs batted in, batting average, on-base percentage or slugging percentage. He still needs more than 400 hits to catch the Iron Horse, who had 2,721 hits during his storied New York Yankees career.

But the Angels designated hitter entered Saturday night's game against the Atlanta Braves with 533 career doubles, 33rd on baseball's all-time list and one behind Gehrig, who hit 534 from 1923-39.

And any time your name and achievement are mentioned in the same sentence with Gehrig, that's a very good thing.

"To be around a legend in the game, someone everyone talks about, to me, that's respect," Abreu, 37, said. "You play the game, you do the job, you never think you're going to be around a guy like Lou Gehrig."

Abreu has not done extensive research on Gehrig, but he played 21/2 seasons for the Yankees from 2006-2008, so he has absorbed plenty of information about the Hall of Fame first baseman who played in 2,130 consecutive games.

"He's the Iron Man, the guy who played hard every day no matter what," Abreu said. "He's a hero of the game, a player everyone wanted to be like, and right now I'm with him in some categories. It makes me feel proud."

Abreu, in his 15th major league season, entered Saturday with a career .295 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .485 slugging percentage. And after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning, he had 2,302 career hits, 1,376 runs, 278 homers and 1,284 RBIs.

A lock for the Hall of Fame, Abreu isn't, but Manager Mike Scioscia believes the outfielder deserves strong consideration. And passing a legend such as Gehrig in a prominent offensive category should help Abreu's Cooperstown candidacy.

"As time and Bobby's career goes on and he hits these milestones, you appreciate what a great player he is and what a great career he's had," Scioscia said. "When you're put in the context with some of those all-time greats, it puts in perspective how great he is."

Abreu is one of only four players in major league history with 250 home runs, 500 doubles and 350 stolen bases. The other three are Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Craig Biggio.

Abreu has posted five seasons of at least 20 homers, 20 stolen bases and 40 doubles. No one else has completed that trifecta more than three times.

Abreu, considered one of baseball's most patient hitters, hasn't put up his usual power numbers this season — he entered Saturday with one homer and 17 RBIs.

His average (.267) is down, but he ranks third in the American League with 32 walks, which has pushed his on-base percentage to a team-high .389. He has five stolen bases.

Abreu has said he would like to play three more years, which seems ambitious for a guy his age until you consider he has played at least 151 games in each of the past 13 seasons and is still in excellent shape.

The move from the outfield to designated hitter should also put less strain on Abreu, who entered Saturday needing 224 plate appearances for his $9-million contract option for 2012 to become guaranteed.

"He still runs well, his bat speed is still there, and he's very smart in the batter's box," Scioscia said. "He's still playing at a very high level. You never have a crystal ball, but his skills are still at a level where he can play a lot more baseball."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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