CLEARWATER, Fla. -- He was shipped out of town eight years ago, right before the Phillies' run of first-place finishes began.
But the world kept spinning until, on Sunday, Bobby Abreu found himself back in the Phillies' clubhouse, grateful for even a non-roster opportunity to get back to the big leagues after a season out of the game.
"I know I'm not the same [player] as what I was like at 25-26," said the 40-year-old Abreu, who signed a minor-league deal last month that would pay him $800,000 if he makes the team as a fourth outfielder. "But I feel fine. I still can hit, steal bases and run the bases pretty good. ... And play the outfield."
The Phillies signed Abreu after scouting him extensively this winter in Venezuela, where he hit .322/.416/.461 in 50 games and 180 at-bats. He sat out all of last season after the Angels released him following the 2012 season.
"I got a few calls, but I didn't want to go out there," said Abreu, who spent nine seasons with the Phillies between 1998-2006. "I just wanted to take a little rest and think about it, about what I wanted to do, and [then] to prepare myself to come back for winter ball ... and show that I can still play the game."
Abreu said he watched very little baseball last season because "it was hard to watch." But it still wasn't until June that he decided he wanted to give it one more try to get back to the major leagues.
"I just love this game," he said. "And I feel that I can still play this game. Whenever I feel myself that I don't feel the same, I'll sit down and look at myself and say it's not going to be no more. But right now, I feel I have a little more in the tank."
Abreu said he understands that even if he makes the team, his role is only to be a bat off the bench, and "that's not a problem for me."
He sounded less sure of where he stands with the fans of Philadelphia, who never seemed to embrace his low-key style and booed him when he returned after being traded.
"Sometimes those things happen, you know," he said. "I didn't know they were going to boo me over there [when he came back as a Dodger in 2012]. There were, I would say, some boos and some guys with claps. So I'm not really looking [at] that right now. Let's see what's going to happen after spring training ... how it's going to be with the fans over there."