Finally, fans begin to recognize Abreu

NL Notebook

Baseball Week

July 17, 2005|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN STAFF

There's no way this season should be a coming-out party for Bobby Abreu.

By now, anyone who knows how many innings there are in a baseball game should know who the Philadelphia Phillies' Abreu is.

The 31-year-old outfielder clearly is one of the 10 best players in the game. He does everything on a diamond: run, hit, hit for power and play great defense.

Sadly, the biggest headline of his career came Monday when he hit a record 41 homers in the Home Run Derby contest, including 24 in one round. It comes on the heels of his being voted in to start the All-Star Game for the first time.

It's like fans are starting to understand what baseball has known for years.

"I have always believed in him," said Abreu's friend and fellow Venezuelan, Melvin Mora of the Orioles.

At the All-Star break, Abreu (pronounced ah-BRAY-you) was just two homers from his seventh consecutive 20-homer, 20-steal season. During that span, he has hit 30 homers or more twice and stolen 30 bases or more in three seasons, all while hitting .300 or better in all but one of those seven years. Not bad for a guy once traded straight up for shortstop Kevin Stocker.

"[Abreu] did some special things earlier on this year where he got national recognition," said Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who managed Abreu in Philadelphia. "For whatever reason, he wasn't getting that earlier. And I don't know why.

"He kind of got on a hot streak, and the rest of the baseball world kind of woke up to his talents. Like what he did [at the derby]. That doesn't make him a better player, but I guarantee you are going to see his name more. People are going to take notice of what he has done on the field."

Thome on the block?

Phillies general manager Ed Wade wouldn't confirm or deny rumors as to whether star first baseman Jim Thome is on the trade block. Wade normally stays away from talking about trades, but he will shoot down ridiculous rumors. Which makes his "no comment" curious.

Thome, who turns 35 in August, is on the disabled list for the second time this season, and his replacement, highly touted 25-year-old rookie Ryan Howard, is holding his own. But Thome would be difficult to deal. He has a full no-trade clause and at least $46 million and three years left on his contract.

Bonds still unsure

The San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds echoed last week what he has said periodically all year. He's not sure he'll return from injury this season. That uncertainty speaks louder in July than it did in March.

Quick hits

Arizona Diamondbacks closer Brandon Lyon won't be back from an elbow strain until August, further stressing the team's need to trade for a reliever. ... Outfielder Eric Byrnes, traded last week to the Colorado Rockies, may not be in Denver for long. The cost-conscious Rockies didn't get any salary relief when they dealt pitcher Joe Kennedy for Byrnes.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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