Good news! Peter Bourjos has been freed!!! Our prayers have been answered.
Bad news… he was only freed because Vernon Wells ruined his thumb. That’s not exactly the kind of circumstances any player wants to earn back a starting job, but it is the reality of the situation. The only problem for Bourjos is that it means that while he has his freedom, he still hasn’t earned it. At least he will have the opportunity to do so now, but he might have a very short window.
It appears that for this week, the Angels will roll out an everyday outfield of Trout in left, Bourjos in center and Trumbo in right. For the first time all season, Bourjos will be free to play without the pressure of trying to outplay Vernon Wells. As patently ridiculous as that statement sounds, that is the situation Peter put himself in, battling for playing time with one of the biggest underachievers in baseball in a lineup full of massive underachievers, Bourjos included. But none of that matters now because Bourjos gets his starting job back due to attrition. But maybe it will be that lack of an outfield alternative that will allow Peter to relax, get out of his own head and start producing like he did last season.
But he better get comfortable in a hurry. With the Angels hoping to have Torii Hunter return from his leave of absence as soon as this weekend, Bourjos isn’t so much free as on probation. Mike Trout isn’t going anywhere. Mike Scioscia isn’t about to bench a veteran like Hunter. Mark Trumbo has developed into the team’s best middle of the order threat and needs a position. That leaves precious little room for Bourjos find playing time even if he has the best week of his life before Hunter returns. At best, he’ll find himself in a sort of platoon, with him starting in center versus left-handers while Trumbo shifts to DH and Morales sits on the bench. That isn’t much but it is something.
That “something” though is huge for Bourjos because that “something” means him working his way back into the future plans of the franchise. As much as management claims he is still key to the team’s long-term strategy, one can’t help but notice how readily he was cast aside at the first sign of struggle. Sorry, but that means something. As superlative as his defense might be, Mike Scioscia and/or Jerry Dipoto see something in Bourjos that they don’t like. My guess is probably his shaky control of the strike zone.
For Scioscia, that is a problem because with Peter’s speed, Scioscia almost certainly views him as a top of the order option. Even though Sosh has hardly ever been a disciple of OBP, he knows that Bourjos needs to get on-base if he is going to fit into the mold that Scioscia has for him. As for Dipoto, he is trying to change the entire offensive philosophy of the club, a philosophy of working counts and being selective. Bourjos doesn’t match that philosophy either, at least not right now.
The darndest thing though is that Bourjos knows his plate discipline is lacking. In fact, that seems to be what triggered his lousy start to the year. Trying too hard to draw walks. Taking pitches for the sake of taking pitches. Putting himself in bad counts because he was hoping to show he could control the count. Oh, the tangled web he weaved. Now he needs to get himself untied but still find a way to prove that he has made progress as an offensive player and thus deserving of playing time in the short-term and a long-term place in the team’s future plans.
And he has a week to do it.