Bourjos has reasons to be excited about '12
Center fielder eager to meet Pujols, embark on second season
ANAHEIM -- Peter Bourjos was a lot like the rest of us last week. He heard the faint rumors regarding the Angels' interest in Albert Pujols, but looked at the team's situation at first base, thought about the projected 2012 payroll and figured all along that C.J. Wilson was the best and only fit.
So last Wednesday night, when reports came out that his club had picked up its pursuit of Pujols, Bourjos scoffed at the idea and went to sleep.
Then, like so many around baseball, the Angels' center fielder woke up absolutely stunned.
"I went to bed, and I woke up with my phone ringing and I look," Bourjos said. "My buddies are texting me that we signed Pujols and I was like, 'Holy cow!' I was shocked. But at the same time, I was really excited and happy. I couldn't go back to bed. It was like 8 in the morning."
The Angels had not only reeled in Pujols, but they had also committed more than $330 million to sign him and Wilson, making them instantaneous title contenders and essentially changing the dynamic of the American League.
Bourjos has spent almost his entire offseason in Arizona, lifting weights while rehabbing groin and hip ailments at the same facility as Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales. Next week, Bourjos hopes to start running again -- he tried about a month ago, but the hip injury that bothered him toward the end of the season flared up, so he shut it down -- and will also begin doing baseball activities, which should put him right on schedule.
Like Angels fans, Bourjos can't wait until the rest of the team joins him there for Spring Training.
More specifically, he can't wait to spend some time with the club's new No. 3 hitter.
"I can't wait to meet him, and I can't wait to watch him play," Bourjos said of Pujols. "I think I'm going to be just as excited as the fans are, to watch him hit, take BP. I'm going to be like a little kid, basically. I'm going to be a fan sitting there watching, just because of what he does."
People will also be closely watching Bourjos this spring, to see how he can build on a successful first full season and perhaps serve as a reliable leadoff hitter.
Bourjos, who turns 25 on March 31, hit .271 with a .327 on-base percentage in 147 games in 2011, a year that saw him spend time in the first and last two spots of the order. He added 12 homers, 43 RBIs, 22 steals, 11 triples and Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field.
But he continued to struggle with his strikeout rate.
"I've always struck out quite a bit," said Bourjos, a 10th-round Draft pick in 2005. "And I just want to keep improving on my plate discipline."
Bourjos drew just 32 walks and struck out 124 times, 15th-most in the AL and a professional high for the speedster out of Illinois. But in June, he started flattening out his bat at the plate, which he felt helped him stay up the middle and not pull off pitches.
This offseason, he hopes to keep working on that -- and use it to help him get on base more consistently.
"I felt like I was getting better at it towards the last two months of the season, and I felt like I was getting in better counts and taking some pitches that I had been swinging at out of the zone earlier in the season," Bourjos said. "So I just want to keep building off that and carry it into next season, and hopefully be a part of this team."
The latter seemed questionable not too long ago.
With top prospect Mike Trout on the cusp of a full-time role in the Majors, Bourjos' name has been thrown around the rumor mill this offseason, most prominently in a potential deal to acquire Mets third baseman David Wright.
But while acknowledging that "quite a few" clubs have expressed interest, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto told FOXSports.com recently that he's not looking to trade Bourjos.
"Peter Bourjos is a guy we're going to hold," Dipoto told the website. "He's one of the better defenders in the league, a 0-to-3 [in years of service time]. He's a good player who fits in very well on a good team, makes our pitching staff better. We're not that motivated to move him right now."
Like most players will tell you, Bourjos -- who has seen his name tossed around before -- tries not to worry about being mentioned in rumors because it's nothing he can control. But he made it clear he never wants to play anywhere else.
"Obviously when you hear that, you get kind of disappointed, like, 'Man, this is where I want to play,'" Bourjos said. "Hopefully I can play my whole career [in Anaheim]."
That may come down to whether Bourjos and Trout can co-exist in the outfield down the road. That happened quite a bit toward the end of the season, with Bourjos staying in center and Trout playing the corners.
And Bourjos believes that can happen long-term, too.
"We played quite a bit together during the season, especially towards the end of the year when he was up there, and it was a lot of fun," Bourjos said. "In a few years, who knows? I don't know what the plan is, but it's going to be fun when we're both out there together. Hopefully that can happen."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.