As expected, the Indians activated centerfielder Michael Bourn Friday afternoon, leaving the speedy centerfielder six weeks to try to help take a .500 team and make them a playoff contender down the stretch.
On the disabled list since July 6th with another left hamstring injury (his third setback of the season), Bourn took the vacant roster spot of right-handed reliever John Axford, the Tribe’s former closer who was claimed on outright waivers Thursday by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Whether or not Bourn, who has been plagued by hamstring issues since the Indians signed him to a four-year, $48 million deal before last season, can make that much of an impact alone is up for question.
His season to date has been a disappointing one due to constant problems with the hamstring he had surgically repaired in October, following problems with it late in the 2013 campaign.
When Bourn is healthy, he makes an impact defensively and offensively - where he’s batted .267 with nine doubles, seven triples, three home runs, and 21 RBI. He’s also stole seven bases and scored 37 runs in 66 games.
Before rejoining his big league teammates, Bourn made five rehab appearances in the minors between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He managed only two hits in a combined 23 at-bats – including going hitless (0-for-4) for in his final game Thursday with the Clippers. But all the Indians brass wanted to see was proof that he was healthy once again.
Despite being activated in time for the Tribe’s weekend series hosting the Baltimore Orioles, he was not in Friday’s lineup against left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen. He is, however, expected to start Saturday and Sunday’s games.
The Indians coped with Bourn’s lengthy absence by sliding left fielder Michael Brantley over to center and moved second baseman Jason Kipnis into the leadoff spot. Plan B worked only 50 percent well as Brantley made a seamless defensive transition, but Kipnis underachieved in the leadoff spot offensively by hitting just .239.