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Tue, 08 May 2012 03:44 AM EDT

The Dodgers are off to their best start in years, and executive Don Mattingly thinks Bobby Abreu makes the National League West leaders much better. Basketball betting lines

Abreu signed with the Dodgers, insisting he was OK with a reserve role after a number of years as a regular with the Angels, Philadelphia and the New York Yankees. The move gives Los Angeles another seasoned lefty bat on the bench to use late in games.

“I’m just pleased to be here,” Abreu said. “It’s all about the fellows we have got here. I heard about it, but now that I’m here, you can see all the young guys — we have such a great talent. It’s great to be here and good to be back in the NL.”

The 38-year-old Abreu had been confined to part time duty with the Angels and hit .208 in 24 at-bats before he was let go 2 weeks back. He didn’t have to go far to find another job, joining the surging Dodgers after they won 17 of their 1st 25 games for their best start since 2009.

“Bobby’s a guy, glaringly, who’s been a great hitter his entire career, and kind of makes us, we feel like to, incrementally a little bit better,” expounded Mattingly, who was on the Yankees’ coaching staff for part of Abreu’s stint in N.Y. “He gives us a chance to be a little bit better.”

The Dodgers will pay $401,311 of Abreu’s $9 million income for this year, leaving the Angels with the remaining part of the final season of a $27 million, 3-year agreement. Infielder Justin Sellers was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to create space on the line-up.

Abreu is a career .293 hitter with 284 homers, 1,330 RBIs and 393 stolen bases. He made his big league debut with Houston in 1996 and is returning to the NL for the 1st time since he was traded by the Phillies to the Yankees in 2006.

Abreu said the change to the National League shouldn’t be any problem, and he’s fine with his bench role, too.

“You just have to get used to it,” he claimed. “The great thing is we talked about it and I know what my job is over here. It may be no problem. I can be prepared for every chance I need to swing the bat or play defense.”

Mattingly was New York’s hitting coach when Abreu joined the Yankees 6 years back and served as Joe Torre’s bench coach for the 2007 season. So when Dodgers GM Ned Colletti asked him about adding Abreu, Mattingly felt he had an excellent idea of the way in which the vet might fit in with the team.

“You hear the rumors Bobby’s bad in the clubhouse. I’ve never seen any of that,” Mattingly said. “To me, he was the opposite. With Melky (Cabrera) and Robby (Cano) over in New York, he’s the guy that helped both those men with the strike zone, helped those men out. I never saw him been a bad colleague, so that was one of the things I wasn’t worried about.”

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