"I'm just happy to be back right now," Abreu said. "I'll do anything I can do to help the team -- as a pinch-hitter and whenever they give me time to play."
Manager Don Mattingly said he sees Abreu as more of a fourth outfielder than simply a left-handed pinch-hitter.
"Obviously, he's been a good hitter his whole career, and I think he makes us a little bit better," said Mattingly. "I told him he would basically be part-time. He knows he's not coming in here to play every day. He'll play against certain righties and in double-switches. I don't see him as a Matt Stairs [strictly pinch-hitting]."
Although playing time is expected to be limited, as it was in Anaheim when things went south last month, Abreu made it sound like his familiarity with Mattingly (they were together in New York with the Yankees) will make a difference in his role acceptance.
"Right now, I understand what's going on," Abreu said. "We talked about it, a good conversation. The role they want me to have is no problem to me. Donnie tells you things straight -- what your job is. I like that. Right away, he tells you what's going on -- no lies, straight up. In New York, that was Donnie."
Mattingly said he's comfortable with Abreu's outfield defense, as well as his swing after watching "every one of his at-bats" on video, especially off right-handers.
Mattingly also dismissed suggestions that Abreu can be a problem in the clubhouse if he isn't playing.
"I've heard the rumors -- he's bad in the clubhouse -- [but] I never saw any of that," Mattingly said, complimenting Abreu for mentoring young Yankees. "I've never seen him be a bad teammate."
Abreu, 38, was an All-Star (twice), Gold Glove Award winner and Silver Slugger Award winner in his younger days. The Angels released him to make room for Mike Trout last week, one month into the third and final year of a $27 million deal, so the Dodgers get him for the pro-rated minimum salary. A .293 career hitter, he was batting .208 when cut.
"It was a tough decision, and there was no doubt that he was going to settle into a place to play," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He can still do a lot of things on the baseball field."
Abreu drove in 103 runs in 2009 and slugged 20 homers in 2010, when his average dropped 38 points. But last year, his eight homers were the lowest since he became an everyday player in 1998. Abreu lost his outfield job with the Angels last year, making 108 appearances as a designated hitter. He did steal 21 bases last season.
"Of course I have to make an adjustment and get used to it," Abreu said. "The good thing is we talked about it. I know what my role is here, and it'll be no problem. I'll always be ready. You see, as an everyday player, you don't pay attention to that stuff. Right now, it's OK. I'll get used to it fine."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.