CLEVELAND — Unlike with Nick Swisher, the Indians picked the right time to unveil the Michael Bourn bobblehead.
Swisher’s “Bro-Hio” bobblehead was passed out to fans with the first baseman on the disabled list and batting just .211. Bourn’s was available Tuesday night, with the center fielder healthy and finally showing some of the qualities that enticed Cleveland into signing the two-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove award winner to a four-year contract worth $48 million.
Bourn was hampered by injuries last year — underwent offseason surgery on his left hamstring — and opened this season on the disabled list with an injury to the same hamstring. But he’s moving more fluidly and hitting better, entering Tuesday night batting .294 with two home runs, 14 RBIs and five stolen bases in 38 games.
“As he grows into the season, I think you’re going to see more and more of this,” manager Terry Francona said. “He makes us go. I think when he goes like that, we can be a different team.”
The Indians have only seen glimpses of the blazing speed possessed by Bourn, who led the National League in stolen bases three years straight (2009-11).
“It takes patience but I think that’s the best way to go about it,” Francona said. “I don’t think you can just give somebody a speech and make them run fast, especially after having surgery, the cold weather. People may not want to hear that, but it’s reality.
“He understands the more he can impact the game with his legs the better we are. He also understands that staying on the field is important. What I don’t want him to do is just run into outs. That’s not going to help us. I do want him to feel confident in the fact that if he does run and gets thrown out, we’re going to be positive.”
Meanwhile, there is positive news on the Swisher front as well. Francona said Swisher (hyperextended left knee) could begin playing in minor league rehab games during the team’s upcoming 10-game road trip that begins Friday.
“I think he’s pretty upbeat about where he is,” Francona said of Swisher. “The big thing we’ve tried to drive home with Swish is, OK, you’re on the disabled list. Let’s not have an artificial timetable. We want you back when you can come back and play and not be limping, and he understands that.”
Carlos Santana (concussion list) participated in pregame activities and ran the bases. Francona said the third baseman could still join the Indians on Friday.
“Potentially, he could be active on Friday, but he has to go past these hurdles, but he’s doing an outstanding job of it,” Francona said. “He’s doing really well.”
Santana, who also missed time with a concussion in 2012, still must pass MLB’s test before being cleared.
“I don’t think this is an issue,” Francona said. “We’re aware of what happened in 2012, but when he passes his test, he’s OK. That means he’s healed.”
Francona admitted that he is cognizant of overusing key members of his bullpen, namely right-handers Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen, who ranked first and second in the majors in appearances through Monday.
Shaw had appeared in 30 games (28 1/3 innings) through Monday, while Allen had pitched in 29 games (24 1/3 innings). Situational left-hander Marc Rzepczysnki had pitched in a big league high 30 games as well, but only 20 2/3 innings.
“I don’t ever have a goal of wanting our guys to lead the league in appearances and we’re right there, so that’s not something I’m hoping for,” Francona said. “It’s something I get a lot of anxiety over. You’re trying to balance winning, a long year and their careers.
“I want to see Cody, Shaw … I want to see them all break the bank, not to the point where we don’t have them. They’re everything that we believe in. They show up and want to pitch and they’ll take the ball every day. Because they’ll say yes, I need to check myself sometimes.”
Michael Brantley is one the few players left on the Indians’ roster that played with former Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore. Sizemore has much respect for his old teammate.
“Mike is probably one of the most underrated players in the game,” Sizemore said of Brantley, who entered Tuesday batting .302 with a team-leading nine homers and 40 RBIs (seventh in the AL) while leading the majors in assists. “I think he’s getting a lot of recognition now, but still not what he deserves. If you watched what he’s done the last couple years, it’s pretty impressive, and I think he’s only going to get better.”
- Zach McAllister (lower-back strain) is scheduled to make a rehab start for Class A Lake County today.
- Browns running back Ben Tate threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Cleveland’s first-round draft picks, cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel, are expected to throw out the first pitch tonight. The Indians announced that there will be no media availability for either rookies.
- Tonight, 7:05, STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Kluber (6-3, 3.04) vs. Workman (0-0, 3.24).