09/17/09 12:29 AM ET
Angels willing to learn Abreu's lessons
Veteran has embraced leadership role in first year with club
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Bobby Abreu has found a whole classroom full of eager pupils in the Angels' clubhouse, listening and observing with a keen desire to learn.
Abreu's teaching tools are many. He can do it through words, but his actions also get the job done nicely. Young, impressionable Angels hitters climb the dugout steps to watch intently as the master goes about the precise business of working counts, getting into pitchers' heads, making them sweat for every strike.
He'll occasionally swing at a first pitch, to keep pitchers honest, but Abreu's calling card is his ability to get deep in the count and wait for something in his happy zone.
On the basepaths, Abreu is always aware, looking to take the extra base, steal one, do whatever he can to advance his team closer to a run.
Over the course of his first season with the Angels, Abreu, 35, has seen his students -- Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, Kendry Morales, Howard Kendrick, Juan Rivera, even veterans such as Chone Figgins and Torii Hunter -- make positive strides with the most subtle of improvements.
In this game, where the little things add up, one small step can be lead to a giant leap.
"No doubt," Abreu said when asked if it makes him feel good to see teammates evolve. "You see the way they take pitches, the way they handle situations during the game. Move the runner, work the count, things like that. It's important -- especially late in the game when every run can change a game.
"Take Morales. He has been hitting much better with runners in scoring position. Early in the season, he was swinging at everything, trying to do too much in those situations. Now he's got an idea what he's doing at the plate. He's making good decisions on which pitches to go after.
"That's one of the things that's going to help us in the playoffs. Understanding situations is so important. Don't try to do too much. Do what you're capable of doing."
Abreu's September mantra is basic and to the point, like the man himself: "You don't have to change anything. Keep doing what you've been doing."
The offense has hit a lull this month after destroying pitching from June through August. It remains formidable, and Abreu has no doubt it will surge back to life at any moment.
"We have too many good hitters for us not to do well," said Abreu.
The defense, he added, has been remarkably consistent, with only the occasional blunder. He raves about the up-the-middle defense -- from catchers Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli to middle infielders Aybar, Izturis and Kendrick to the great Hunter in center field -- and has been amazed by Figgins' brilliance at third base.
"Figgy has saved a lot of games for us over there," Abreu said. "And Morales, at first, is doing a good job. He knows how to move around over there. Those guys up the middle have been fantastic, and Torii, he's the captain in the outfield. We follow him.
"Our defense has been very good. Our offense is dangerous. And our pitching is coming around. [John] Lackey is showing everybody he's Lackey. He's got that look. [Scott] Kazmir is going to help us a lot. [Jered] Weaver has been doing it all year. [Joe] Saunders has been doing better, and [Ervin] Santana, the last five or six games, has been pretty good. Our bullpen can get the job done.
"We've got everything set up for the playoffs. Just don't change anything. It works."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.