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Peter Bourjos looks like a centerpiece in Angels' 2013 plans

Bourjos was squeezed out of the Angels' everyday lineup last season. But with free agent Torii Hunter unlikely to return, the team appears ready to start Bourjos in center field.

November 07, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Peter Bourjos appears to be the Angels' center fielder heading into next season with Torii Hunter unlikely to return.
Peter Bourjos appears to be the Angels' center fielder heading into… (Elaine Thompson / Associated…)

Peter Bourjos is 25 with just over two years of big league experience, but the Angels center fielder has already been in enough trade rumors to know that nothing in baseball is set in stone.

So when General Manager Jerry Dipoto said Friday that Bourjos would start alongside Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo in the outfield next season, Bourjos didn't throw a party on South Padre Island, the resort area on the coast of Texas where he was fishing with his father and agent.

"It was nice to hear, and hopefully that's the way it works out. But with the long winter, anything can happen," Bourjos said. "Things can change so quickly in this game that you can't really count on anything."

Bourjos, who has been linked in rumors in deals for Roy Halladay, David Wright and others, thought he'd be dealt to Tampa Bay for James Shields or Milwaukee for Zack Greinke last July.

But the trade deadline passed, Bourjos remained, and now it appears he'll be taken out of cold storage to roam center field for the Angels in 2013.

"I can't wait to play a bit," Bourjos said. "Last year didn't work out for me."

Bourjos lost his job to Trout in May and was essentially mothballed for the summer, his role reduced to pinch-runner and late-game defensive replacement. He started two games from July 31 on.

But Dipoto loves Bourjos' skill set and is confident Bourjos can regain his 2011 form, when he hit .271 with 12 homers, 11 triples, 26 doubles, 72 runs and, according to FanGraphs, saved 21 runs on defense, second-most in the major leagues.

Bourjos has struggled to make consistent contact, but his plate discipline improved in 2011, as he went from 79 strikeouts and 18 walks in 86 games in the first half to 45 strikeouts and 14 walks in 61 games in the second half.

"He's a terrific defensive center fielder; he can fly, and he's done it before," said Dipoto, who will be in Indian Wells for general managers' meetings Wednesday through Friday. "We've seen what he's capable of when given an opportunity to play. We believe in Pete's upside. He has the ability to play every day in the big leagues."

Bourjos doesn't think the downtime in 2012 will affect him in 2013.

"It's not so much timing; you have to pick that up every spring," Bourjos said. "It might be getting back into that rhythm in the batter's box. You lose that competitive edge you had playing consistently, but it should come right back."

If there is one drawback to Bourjos' return to the lineup, it's that it will come at the expense of popular outfielder Torii Hunter, who hit .313 with 92 runs batted in last season but is not expected to be retained as a free agent.

It was Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, who graciously moved from center field to right to make room for Bourjos in 2010 and who has tutored numerous youngsters such as Bourjos and Trout.

"I think guys will fall in and be leaders in the clubhouse, but I don't think you can replace a guy like Torii," Bourjos said. "He's a bright spot in that room. I've never been around a guy with that much energy. Just being around him, talking to him, makes you feel better."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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