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Bourn showing off healthy legs in center field

Veteran makes crucial catch early in opener vs. Tigers

DETROIT -- It was the kind of play that can easily get buried within a box score overabundant in offensive exploits. The catch made by center fielder Michael Bourn in the first inning Friday night was not lost on Indians manager Terry Francona.

"That play was a really big play in the game," Francona said.

Cleveland routed the Tigers, 13-1, in the opener of this three-game series at Comerica Park, but Bourn's defensive robbery against Detroit's Yoenis Cespedes kept Detroit from taking an early lead. It also showed that -- despite some early struggles in the batter's box -- Bourn looks to be over the leg issues that hindered him all last year.

With the bases loaded, two outs and the Indians holding a 2-0 lead, Cespedes drilled a pitch from Tribe starter Danny Salazar deep to center field, tailing away from Bourn. He got a quick jump, shifted into a dead sprint, tracked down the ball and likely saved three runs.

In another ballpark, Cespedes might have had a grand slam. At spacious Comerica Park, Bourn's speed allowed for a highlight-reel running catch.

"That ball was killed," Francona said. "That's a lot of territory out there."

The 32-year-old Bourn entered Saturday's game batting just .193 (11-for-57) with a .270 on-base percentage, one stolen base in three attempts and six runs scored through 14 games. It has not been an ideal start for Cleveland's leadoff hitter, especially following an injury-marred showing in 2014 (.257/.314/.360 in 106 games).

Hamstring issues sent Bourn to the disabled list twice last season, and the center fielder worked hard over the offseason to strengthen his legs and improve his running form in an effort to avoid a recurrence of last season's health woes. So far, Francona has been encouraged by how the veteran center fielder has looked in the field in that regard.

"Very much so," Francona said. "He's not dragging a leg, or he's not babying it. You see him in the outfield."

Now, Cleveland is hoping Bourn will begin feeling good in the batter's box as well.

"Because it's early, a three-hit day kind of changes everything," Francona said. "And that can happen to Bourny, too. It's just, because he's leading off, it's so impactful. And he knows that. I don't want to really throw more on him, because he understands that. For us to really get going, when he gets going, that'll really help."

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