Re-Bourn or Re-Injured?

Is 2015 finally the season where Cleveland gets a healthy Michael Bourn?

During the first half of his four year contract that he signed prior to the 2013 season, Bourn has been nothing short of disappointing. The upside of the former All-Star probably still remains, as Bourn has sporadically shown flashes of his former brilliance. Injuries, however, have led to inconsistent performances which have led to instability at the top of the Indians batting order. In a nutshell: Nothing could be bigger for the Indians’ 2015 chances than a return to form for the Indians’ centerfielder.

Prior to becoming a Cleveland Indian, Bourn was a star centerfielder in both Houston and Atlanta. A speed-demon catalyst of the truest form, Bourn stole more than 40 bases every season from 2008 to 2012 and led the National League in that category each year from 2009 to 2011. He was a Gold Glover in both 2009 and 2010 and an All-Star in both 2010 and 2012. Bourn’s resume coming to Cleveland was certainly impressive, but he has failed to live up to the enormous expectations that were placed on him.

Bourn played inconsistently as he battled nagging injuries all year during 2013. He played in 130 games but batted just .263—his lowest average since his first year in Houston. He managed to steal just 23 bags and was caught 12 times—his worst percentage since 2006. Additionally, Bourn’s OBP dropped to an alarming level for a leadoff hitter at .316.

For as disappointing as 2013 was, 2014 was even worse for Bourn. After having surgery on his hamstring after the Indians Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay, Bourn re-aggravated the injury in Spring Training and had to miss the beginning of the season. He never seemed fully healthy the rest of the way, posting worse statistics than the year prior with a .257 average, .314 OBP and just 10 steals while being caught six times. It seemed that Bourn was a shell of his former self and that the injury bug may never leave the struggling centerfielder.

Entering Spring Training this season, Bourn has seemed healthy and productive for the first time in two years. Although the statistics don’t officially count until Monday, Bourn’s spring training numbers are finally something that is encouraging. Through the weekend, Bourn has batted .362 (17-47) with a homerun and three doubles. He has walked three times and struck out eight. So far, all reports indicate a rebirth in the outfield as well. Bourn spent the offseason speed-training with a University of Houston track coach and has supposedly reaped the benefits by coming into camp faster than the previous two years.

The only red flag out of camp for the Indians most important rebound-piece is the fact that Bourn has attempted just one stolen base all spring and was thrown out. Manager Terry Francona has attributed the shyness on the bases as just a veteran not trying to push his delicate hamstrings too hard, too fast.

Behind Bourn, the Indians don’t really have a true leadoff hitter, nor do they have a better, proven option in centerfield. A healthy Bourn would likely be a productive Bourn—and a productive Bourn would be just what the doctor ordered for the Indians.

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer

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