CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The numbers tease the Phillies every time Bobby Abreu picks up a bat. They taunt them. They tantalize them.
That .292 career batting average for 17 seasons in the big leagues. That .396 career on-base percentage. That .303 average with 195 homers in nine seasons with the Phillies from 1998-2006.
Of course, Abreu was younger then. In 2004, he stole 40 bases -- 254 total in his first time around in Philly.
Abreu will turn 40 on Tuesday, but the Phillies believe he can still hit and get on base.
“I’m going to continue to look at him,” Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “We need to see him get more at-bats. He’s got several walks up to this point. We need to see him get some pitches to hit and see more at-bats, basically. He still has yet to put a big game together offensively.”
That is why Abreu -- a non-roster player but a two-time All-Star -- was in the starting lineup again Monday as the designed hitter.
"I'm getting a shot," Abreu said. "They're giving me a lot of opportunities.
"Some days are good, some days are bad. It’s spring training. I’ve just got to do my things right and everything will be OK.”
On Monday, Abreu reached base on an error, lined a single to right and walked in the Phillies’ 8-1 loss to the Braves (see game story).
That makes him 3 for 20 (.150) in nine Grapefruit League games this spring.
His three hits have all been singles and his on-base percentage (.370) is boosted by six walks and a hit by pitch.
The Phillies see Abreu as a left-handed pinch hitter, a backup rightfielder and possibly the DH when they play in an AL park. The Phils open the season in Texas on March 31.
Abreu’s history, not only with the Phillies but also with the Astros, Yankees, Angels and Dodgers, makes him one of the favorites in the race for the extra outfielder jobs.
Abreu has not played in the major leagues since 2012. He was out of baseball last year, working out and tending to his business interests in his native Venezuela.
He caught the Phillies' eye with his performance during the Venezuelan winter league in which he hit .322 with three home runs, 28 RBIs and a .877 OPS in 50 games.
At $800,000 -- if he makes the 25-man squad this spring -- the Phillies figured he was worth a shot.
Look for him to get more work in right field this spring, as the coaches work on getting him to play a little shallower in preparation for the regular season.
“It’s not my call,” Abreu said. “I just have to do my best, working the count, getting on base. Whatever happens, happens.”