Bobby Abreu‘s first career pinch-hit home run provided the final two runs of the Dodgers’ 8-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. After the game, manager Don Mattingly was asked if he’d do more to get Abreu into the lineup.
But there’s something to be said for the fourth act of Abreu’s season. Let’s call Act 1 “Anaheim,” Act 2 “Starter for the Dodgers,” Act 3 “Albuquerque” and Act 4 “Pinch hitter.” All 19 of Abreu’s plate appearances in September have come as a pinch-hitter. Add in his last four at-bats in July before the Dodgers designated him for assignment, and Abreu has made 23 straight plate appearances as a pinch hitter.
His on-base percentage in those PAs is .391 (three singles, one home run, five walks) and he’d probably have scored more than two runs if not for being replaced with a pinch-runner so often. Nine of Abreu’s 18 career pinch hits have come this season and he is making a strong audition to continue the role next season — his 18th in the majors –at age 39.
Problem is, Abreu doesn’t want to be coming off the bench.
“It’s only for right now, here. We have the outfielders, those guys are playing every day and everything,” he said. “Right now, the team needs a left-hander coming off the bench. I’d say it’s for right now. Let’s see what will happen in the future.”
The history of the majors is littered with players who excelled in limited playing time later in their careers. Matt Stairs comes to mind. Stairs was 43 when he played his final game last season with the Washington Nationals, and it sounds like Abreu doesn’t want to hang on that long.
“I’m just going to play a couple more years, then I’ll be OK,” he said.
It seemed unlikely that Abreu would return to the Dodgers next season after being designated for assignment Aug. 1. It seems even more unlikely now that Carl Crawford is the heir apparent in left field, Jerry Hairston Jr. is under contract for another season, the Dodgers have an option on Juan Rivera — a backup first baseman/outfielder with some pop — and Luis Cruz may be the backup corner outfielder if he gets squeezed out of an everyday job at third base or shortstop.
Still, Abreu wouldn’t rule out a return.
“Let’s see,” he said. “Let’s see what’s going to happen. Just wait. After what happens right now, right now we have to concentrate, try to win the games, get into the playoffs. Then in the off-season you have plenty of time to think about it.”