DETROIT — The Indians will get their center fielder back for the first time this year, but it comes at the expense of one of their most productive players since the start of the season.
Michael Bourn was activated from the disabled list Tuesday and is expected to make his debut tonight against the Tigers. Bourn, who missed close to a month with a left hamstring strain that he sustained during the exhibition season, took the roster spot of outfielder Nyjer Morgan.
Morgan, who was optioned to Triple-A Columbus, filled in admirably for Bourn in center field and atop the batting order, hitting .348 (8-for-23) with a .484 on-base percentage, four RBIs and four runs in nine games.
“It wasn’t really a tough decision,” manager Terry Francona said. “It was difficult in the fact that (Morgan) had done so well and I don’t think anybody thought he deserved to go to Triple-A. But when you look at the way our team is constituted, we needed to stay with the extra pitcher in the bullpen, and with Bourny being a left-handed center fielder, it’s hard to keep both of them.”
The left-handed-hitting Morgan, 33, was a surprise addition to the Opening Day roster after spending last season in Japan. He likely wouldn’t have made the club had Bourn not gotten injured, but still made a strong impression this spring and into the season.
“He’s been electric for us,” Bourn said. “He’s a proven player in the big leagues. People know around the league what he can do. He held it down while I was gone.”
Bourn has been sidelined since March 16. He made five minor league rehab appearances for Columbus and Double-A Akron, going 3-for-20 with a stolen base.
“You miss it when you’re gone,” Bourn said. “I’m ecstatic to be back and ready to join the team and try and help any way I can. They say the heart grows fonder when it’s away. It did.
“With a hamstring you never know. You have to play it day-by-day and make sure that you’re OK. That’s what I tried to do. Luckily it was a mild strain. I just tried to take care of it the best I could.”
Bourn said he was ready to play consecutive games on the big league level, but Francona said that was the limit to start. Both said the inclement weather conditions the Indians have experienced would not affect playing time.
“I don’t think anybody feels great in the cold weather, but he’s healthy,” Francona said. “It’s not going to bother it. It’s harder for everybody to kind of get loose.”
Bourn, 31, is in the second season of a four-year contract worth $48 million. His debut was earmarked by injuries and ineffectiveness — .263, six home runs, 50 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 130 games — with the Indians hoping he would bounce back in 2014.
“I’m not really worried about that,” Bourn said. “I’m worried about playing one game at a time. If you try to go out there and have a big year just by trying to do everything in one day, it’s not going to happen like that. I have enough experience to know that.
“I know I can play baseball. I have confidence in myself that I can go out there and do what I do. I know if I go, our team goes.”
Jason Giambi (fractured rib) is scheduled to make a rehab appearance for Akron today and could be activated for the homestand that begins Friday with the opener of a three-game series against Toronto.
“I think that’s realistic,” Francona said. “When he comes back, he wants to be healthy enough to help us.”
The Indians will have to clear a spot on the roster for Giambi, with relievers Blake Wood and C.C. Lee the likely candidates for demotion.
Francona said Carlos Carrasco’s move to the bullpen was not an effort to provide rest for the right-hander, who said he grew tired early in his last start.
“I’m still trying to figure that out because he’s a big kid and he’s in good shape,” Francona said.
In two starts this season, Carrasco has allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 13 hits, five walks and two hit batters over 10⅓ innings. He didn’t last six innings in either outing.
- The Indians and Tigers will wear the No. 42 tonight in recognition of Jackie Robinson Day, which was Tuesday.
- Columbus first baseman Jesus Aguilar was named the Indians’ minor league player of the week (April 4-13). Aguilar, a non-drafted free agent acquisition in 2007, hit .417 (15-for-36) with an International League-best 1.266 OPS over the first 10 games of the season. He entered Tuesday leading the Clippers with three homers and eight RBIs.