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Bourn aiming to be healthy for Opening Day

Indians outfielder won't rush recovery process with sore left hamstring

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians center fielder Michael Bourn was hoping for some good news on Monday morning. After having his sore left hamstring examined by Cleveland's medical staff, Bourn sounded optimistic about his chances of being recovered and ready in time for Opening Day.

The Spring Training clock is ticking, but Bourn feels there is sufficient time to be back in the leadoff spot for the Tribe for the season opener in Oakland on March 31. The outfielder is expected to miss at least one week of Cactus League game action, but he did not sound overly concerned about the affect that might have on his readiness.

"I think that I'll be ready for Opening Day," Bourn said on Monday. "But I'm going to make sure that I'm healthy. It's a long season."

That last comment sums up the team's stance in this situation.

Manager Terry Francona is quick to refer to Opening Day as an "artificial deadline" for any players dealing with injuries in Spring Training. Cleveland's opener against the A's is the starting line, but there are at least six months of baseball to navigate after that contest. Having Bourn at full strength for the majority of the year outweighs potentially rushing him back to the field.

Francona said the Indians will be conservative with Bourn's latest comeback.

"We don't really know," said Francona, referring to Bourn's timetable for return. "He'll go through a progression of rest, treatment, testing and then, when they turn him loose, we'll be glad to have him back. But I don't want to push the trainers. We'd run into a mistake."

Bourn said the medical staff indicated that the current injury is unrelated to the surgery he underwent on the same hamstring on Oct. 15.

The center fielder ruptured his hamstring on a stolen-base attempt in the ninth inning of Cleveland's American League Wild Card-clinching win over the Twins in the final game of the regular season on Sept. 29. Three days later, Bourn was back in the lineup for the Wild Card loss to Tampa Bay. Once Cleveland was ousted from the postseason, Bourn wasted little time in having Dr. Dan Cooper performed a distal hamstring debridement on him in Dallas.

Bourn said the surgically-repaired part of his hamstring has been fine this spring.

"I felt great doing everything," Bourn said. "I tested it out pretty much doing anything that you can do. Jumping. Running. Squatting. Outfield drills. Whatever you want to go through, I did all that kind of assessment to it, so I'm fine with it. I want to move forward from here."

Bourn said he felt discomfort this time while running from first to third base on a single by Nick Swisher in the first inning of Sunday's split-squad game against the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz. Bourn initially remained in the game -- he played defense in the bottom of the first and grounded out in the top of the second -- but was replaced in center by prospect Tyler Naquin in the home half of the second inning.

"They want me to take a couple days off from actitivity," Bourn said, "and just do treatment to make sure evertything is OK. But I feel positive about it. It's not really in the same spot as I had surgery on. All that's fine."

Through 10 Cactus League games this spring, the 31-year-old Bourn is hitting just .214 with six singles, no extra-base hits, no RBIs and no stolen bases. The center fielder has used a handful of his plate appearances to work on bunting, making his overall offensive stats a bit deceiving.

Francona was not worried about the early results.

"I don't know what his batting average is. I couldn't care less," the manager said. "He's a guy coming off surgery and he's trying to get ready for a long season. He does a great job. He's about as conscientious a kid that you're ever going to find."

Cleveland signed Bourn to a four-year contract worth $48 million prior to last season, but the center fielder experienced a subpar showing in his first tour with the Tribe. In 130 games, Bourn posted a .263/.316/.360 slash line to go along with six home runs, 21 doubles, six triples, 50 RBIs, 23 stolen bases and 75 runs scored. He missed time between April and May due to a right index finger injury.

It was a disappointing showing for Bourn, who has made it clear all spring that he is determined to return to his prior form this season. In the four seasons prior to 2013, Bourn posted a .280/.348/.378 slash line with an average of 42 extra-base hits, 54 stolen bases and 93 runs scored between tours with Houston and Atlanta.

If the latest setback caused frustration for Bourn, he wasn't admitting it.

"I don't have any frustration. I'm fine," Bourn said. "I would've been frustrated if I would've heard different kind of news. But, since the news I got is pretty upbeat, pretty good, I'm fine with it. I'm ready to move forward and take it day by day."

Cleveland knows it has a built-in contingency plan in outfielder Michael Brantley, who has the ability to shift from left field to center and bat leadoff, if needed. Francona said the Indians are not to the point of needing to discuss alternatives for the start of the regular season, but the club will use the next two weeks to take a look at some other players in center.

Francona notes that bench candidates Elliot Johnson, Matt Carson, Jeff Francoeur and Nyjer Morgan will see time in center field. The manager has also given utility man Mike Aviles a look in center field as well. If Bourn is sidelined longer than expected, Brantley would presumably garner some innings up the middle, too.

"I don't think we need to start looking at options for Opening Day, yet," Francona said. "If we need to get to that point, we could."

Bourn is hoping to help the Indians avoid that step.

"Hopefully, I'll get back in there [this spring]," Bourn said. "But I'll make sure I'm healthy and make sure I'm ready to go, and be ready for Opening Day."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
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