Abreu aims to return to Yankees

Abreu aims to return to Yankees

It's summertime in Texas and it's scorching outside. The clubhouse clock reads 5:10 p.m. CT and stretch starts in 20 minutes. The second of two Yankees team buses arrived at the ballpark from the team hotel in Dallas 30 minutes earlier and yes, the club is taking batting practice on the field in the heat.

Game time is 7:05 p.m. If both clubs are lucky, the temperature will drop to the high 80s by the fifth or sixth inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. If they are really lucky, neither clubhouse runs out of ice cream.

The Yankees trail the Red Sox and are only a few games ahead of the Rangers in the American League Wild Card standings (the Rangers?), so the team is working hard. Clichés are not only commonplace in the New York clubhouse, they seem appropriate.

Every game matters. Every series is a big series. We're taking it one game at a time.

It's 15 minutes before stretch. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter arrives in a dark suit. Nobody blinks. He's the captain, so he does what he wants when he wants, because he does what he does on the field when it matters. He will be in the Hall of Fame one day. Newly acquired catcher Ivan Rodriguez has been at the park for almost two hours. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been hanging out for at least an hour. They will also be enshrined in Cooperstown one day.

Bobby Abreu is nowhere to be found. Nobody is worried. The Venezuelan will be clocking in soon. Going to work is what he does, so calm down.

Be cool.

"Bobby has been a good player for a long, long time," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's the kind of guy that hits his 25 [home runs], drives in 100 and steals 25 or 30 bases, and he does it every year. He's a very consistent player and you know what you are going to get from him."

This season is not any different. Abreu, 34, is hitting .291 with 15 home runs and 76 RBIs. Since 2001, Abreu has averaged 22 home runs and 103 RBIs a season. His career batting average is .300. He was acquired by the Yankees via a trade from the Phillies in 2006 and becomes a free agent at the end of the season. He wants to stay in pinstripes a few more years and is keeping his fingers crossed.

"I'm a free agent at the end of the year, so you understand how that is," Abreu said. "Here is where I want to be, but we still have this season to play. There's still a long time before we talk about that."

When the time comes, it should be a quick and easy conversation.

If the Yankees act like the Yankees of the past, then Abreu should get his wish. Remember, this is the club that signed Carl Pavano (to pitch) and Johnny Damon (to play center field) to long-term deals and neither has lived up to the expectations. Re-signing Abreu, a player that has shown few signs of slowing down, should be a no-brainer.

"Things have been great here. I really like it," Abreu said. "This is a team that's always in competition for the playoffs and it seems like you always have the opportunity to make it to the World Series. You can't find that everywhere."

Winning is important to Abreu. He spent 9 1/2 seasons in Philadelphia without appearing in the postseason. Before 2006, his only other playoff appearance came in 1997, while with the Houston Astros.

He makes no secret about not wanting to lose anymore. Don't even ask him how he feels because he is always fine. He's ready. He's "chevere," Spanish for cool, or "tranquilo," which basically means the same thing.

"Bobby wants to play every day and he prepares himself to play every day," Girardi said. "He gets mad if you give him a day off. He's great to have. He has a great attitude. Everyone loves him."

It's 5:20 p.m. Stretch starts in 10 minutes. Abreu walks into the clubhouse garbed in designer jeans and a designer T-shirt. Just like in Philly, he still carries a cloth bag with him. It used to be a simple backpack, but now it appears to be a fancier sort, at least on this day. It's nice and fitting of a big city star athlete.

No surprise there.

Abreu likes the finer things in life. But then again, who doesn't? Expensive cars, fashion, traveling the world and great food are a part of his world. New York is his kind of town. But so is his hometown of Aragua, Venezuela. Caracas, the busiest city in his country, is also a favorite.

He likes how he can blend in at times in Manhattan. He likes being quiet Bob in The City. He's rock star Bobby in Latin America.

Tick.

Tick.

Tick.

Abreu is quick. By 5:25 p.m., he is ready to hit the field. His pre-stretch gear: basketball shorts, and the faded navy T-shirt that reads "Attaboy" on the front and "Bobay!" on the back is in his locker. He takes out his headphones, grabs his glove and heads for the door with a couple of minutes to spare.

Wait! Did he put his phone on vibrate?

Yes.

Abreu is really ready now. It's time to go to work. Nobody is worried.

Everything is chevere.

As usual.

Tranquilo. He's Bobby Abreu. Maybe he'll show up an hour or two earlier tomorrow. He always shows up when it's time to play.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.