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Indians All Smiles Introducing Bourn on First Day of Workouts

Indians All Smiles Introducing Bourn on First Day of Workouts

| On 16, Feb 2013

Friday the Cleveland Indians officially introduced outfielder Michael Bourn to the Tribe in Goodyear, Ariz.

The Tribe agreed to a four year contract with the speedy outfielder on Monday, believed to be valued at $48 million, with an option for a fifth season if Bourn has 550 plate appearances in 2016. The contract gives the Indians one of the premier leadoff hitters and center fielders in Major League Baseball.

“In signing Michael we feel we have signed one of the best center fielders in baseball,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said in video of the press conference. “He’s a dynamic player, exceptional defender in center field and can really impact the game on the bases.”

Bourn becomes the second marquee free agent signing for the Indians this off season. The Tribe signed Nick Swisher to a similar four year contract in late December. Cleveland guaranteed $117 million in free agent contracts this winter to Bourn, Swisher, Mark Reynolds and Brett Myers in attempts to improve a roster that was 68-94 in 2012.

For Bourn, it was a tumultuous winter at times. Thought to be one of the marquee free agents on the market with Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke, B.J. Upton and Swisher, Bourn struggled to find serious suitors for much of the off season. Several teams thought to be interested, like the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies, acquired center fielders via trade.

“It was a long off season for me, but it was fun,” Bourn said. “It was an experience I’ll never forget as a player. It taught me patience, a lot. It was interesting. I landed in a spot that I think that I’m wanted. That was my main focus, somebody that wants me and is committed to me and I’m committed to them.”

Bourn, 30, owns a career Major League batting average of .272 (820-for-3015) with 125 doubles, 45 triples, 22 home runs and 215 RBI over a seven-year career with Philadelphia, Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. He has also stolen 276 bases in 340 attempts and has scored 459 runs in 871 games. The Houston, Texas native is a two-time National League All-Star (2010, 2012), a two-time recipient of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award (2009, 2010) and led the NL in steals over three straight seasons, 2009-2011, while finishing second in the NL in steals last year.

The left-handed hitting Bourn spent his first full season in Atlanta in 2012, setting career-highs with nine home runs, 57 RBI and 70 walks as he finished second to San Diego’s Everth Cabrera in stolen bases with 42. He finished tied for seventh in the entire NL with a 6.0 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 2012, while helping lead Atlanta to a NL Wildcard bid. He was selected to the 2012 NL All-Star team after posting the 9th-highest average in the Senior Circuit at .311 and following the season garnered votes in the NL MVP voting.

Indians Manager Terry Francona feels Bourn’s speed will be a major impact to the top of the Tribe’s lineup and in the field.

“Speed on every facet of the field, whether it’s defensively or on the bases, he’s going to save runs and he’s going to create runs,” Francona said. “Again, it’s going to be with his legs.”

Friday was the first day of organized, full-squad workouts. The only missing player was Nick Swisher, who was in Columbus after the passing of his mother. Despite Swisher missing from camp, the intensity level and excitement around the club was very high. With a roster that now has 17 new additions to the 40-man roster since their last game, many players are anxious to get on the field and get to know their teammates.

“It’s easy the first day,” Indians Manager Terry Francona said. “Everybody is all excited. The idea is to match that every day. He’s certainly a nice addition to our ballclub.”

Both Francona and Antonetti noted that the organization is likely done signing free agents for the winter and ready to begin the season. Cleveland is still linked to free agent starting pitcher, Kyle Lohse. Antonetti feels the free agent acquisitions and roster improvements this off season don’t just improve the Indians for the 2013 season, but also beyond.

“We set out with a dual purpose,” Antonetti said. “One, we wanted to make sure we did everything to maximize our competitiveness in 2013, but also improve our position organizationally moving forward. When you look at the succession of the moves, capped off by bringing in Michael today, we’ve not just improved our 2013 team but we are in much better position moving forward.”

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer