Abreu catches Sandberg’s eye in early workouts

Abreu catches Sandberg’s eye in early workouts
February 22, 2014, 4:45 pm
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Bobby Abreu, who turns 40 in March, is in Phillies camp on a minor-league contract after sitting out last year. (AP)

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Phillies officials won’t begin formulating opinions on Bobby Abreu’s spring-training tryout until Grapefruit League play begins on Wednesday.

So far, manager Ryne Sandberg likes what he sees of the veteran outfielder who is in camp on a minor-league contract after sitting out last season.

“He’s in real good baseball shape,” Sandberg said.

Abreu, who turns 40 in March, is bidding to make the team as an extra outfielder and left-handed bat off the bench.

Sandberg will use Abreu extensively during exhibition play. He will play some right field, serve as a designated hitter and be used as a pinch-hitter as club officials evaluate him.

“You look at bat speed,” Sandberg said of the evaluation process. “You look at who he’s facing. If it’s a good fastball pitcher that day, you see if he catches up to it.”

Abreu had an excellent winter ball season in Venezuela, hitting .322 with three homers, 28 RBIs and an .877 OPS in 50 games. He followed that by hitting .464 with eight homers and five doubles in 16 postseason games.

Sandberg said Abreu’s winter ball production would be taken into consideration as team officials decide his fate. Abreu must be added to the 25-man roster by March 26 or he can opt out of his contract.

“When you’re talking about a player of his caliber, you look at what he did in the past as well as what the scouts who were on him this winter say,” Sandberg said. “What he did this winter was similar to what he did in his prime so you can gauge it on that a little.

“He had a real good winter. He had a lot of quality at-bats with power numbers. With power comes bat speed. And so that’s impressive at 39 years old. Now that I see him in person I see why. He’s in very good shape. He looks strong. He looks good.”