After solid spring, Bourn looks to give Indians a running start

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — During the offseason, a lot of discussion about Michael Bourn was centered on him working with a track coach at the University of Houston. It appears as if the rest of his game is back in shape as well.

With less than a week to go until the regular season, Bourn leads the Indians in hits with 19 and is batting .373. Ironically, the only thing Bourn hasn’t done during spring training is steal bases. He had one attempt during the second week of games and was caught stealing.

Considering how much of an impact stealing bases can take on the body, manager Terry Francona thinks Bourn will be ready to attack the bases when the season begins on Monday in Houston.

"He has done a lot before games in terms of working on his jumps and things like that. I just don’t think he has felt like beating up his body," Francona said. "I couldn’t put a number on what he is going to do. The more havoc he can create the better.

"There are times when guys don’t steal but it does every bit as good. If you have a guy over there that is worried about Bourn and you make a mistake to (Jason) Kipnis, now we’ve got a rally."

While Bourn’s lack of stolen bases in his two seasons with the Indians have drawn the most scrutiny, his on-base percentage has been the biggest reason for the lack of opportunities. According to STATS LLC, Bourn’s .314 OBP in 2013-14 was 10th worst in the majors and second-worst in the American League among leadoff hitters with 300 or more plate appearances. His 245 strikeouts were also the most.

Bourn hopes to reverse those numbers this season. He started the spring with hits in seven of his first eight games and has a hit in six of the past seven. Bourn has also done a good job of hitting to all sides of the field. Francona also noted that Bourn has also worked on his bunting with bench coach Brad Mills.

"I feel like it is going good, I can tell we’re getting to the end of it," said Bourn about his spring. "Most players are ready to get started during the last week that it is more of a maintain week. I’ll see more pitches and then start when it counts.

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"Everyone knows or talks about the running stuff but I also worked on my all-around game. I don’t want to be known for just running. You can only run so much in a game. I feel like I can play with some of the top players and improve."

Bourn has worked on some of us running in the outfield. With the spacious dimensions of some Cactus League ballparks he has made several running grabs in center, including one at the 430-foot mark in center during Wednesday’s game against the Giants in Scottsdale. That should come in handy considering the Indians open the season in Houston, which has the largest center field in the majors.

During the last three Cactus League games, Bourn may try to attempt a steal or two depending on the situation. He leads the majors in stolen bases since 2008 with 290 but has only 33 since joining the Indians, including 10 last season.

If a healthy Bourn can bounce back after hamstring problems the past couple seasons, that should benefit the top of the order and lead to more RBI opportunities for Kipnis and Michael Brantley.

"I’m just trying to make sure I am ready to go and get my first three steps and jump down pat. I’ll be OK," Bourn said.