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Inside the Wigwam: Was Bourn activated too soon?

Inside the Wigwam: Was Bourn activated too soon?
April 21, 2014
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The Bird's-eye View

I simply don’t get it.

Why would a team demote (at the time) their best all-around hitter for a player coming back from injury?

Center fielder Nyjer Morgan was leading the Indians in both average and on-base percentage, but was optioned to Triple-A Columbus last week to make room for Michael Bourn who has returned from a hamstring injury.

Hitting .348 (8-for-23) with four RBI, seven walks, and three stolen bases in nine games, Morgan brought energy both at the top of the lineup and in the clubhouse from the outset. Without the likes of Jason Giambi to start the season, it really felt like Morgan (aka Tony Plush) was that veteran player the club would look to in order to keep players loose.  

Yes, Morgan and Bourn are similar players, but why not ease Bourn back into things as a designated hitter a few games and let Morgan play center field? Or send down utility man Elliot Johnson instead of Morgan. If the versatile Johnson was so important to this club, how come he hasn't played in the last nine days?

The real question becomes, why rush Bourn back at all?

Since the departure of T-Plush, the Indians have scored three runs or less in four of their last six games. That's not soley due to the fact of Bourn's return, as numerous position player have underperformed to start the year.

But, here's something to think about.

Since the 2013 All-Star break, Bourn is hitting just .221 (59-for-267) with four homers and 31 RBI over his last 67 games.

Signed to a four-year, $48 million deal prior to the 2013 season, Bourn has started this year hitting just .118 (2-for-17) through his first four games back.

All it may take is time for Bourn to turn things around, but it's time that the Indians should've given the injury-prone outfielder before coming off the disabled list. In reality, both the contract and rushing Bourn back may prove costly sooner rather than later.

By the Numbers: 8

Eight of the current 12 position players on the 25-man roster are hitting under .250. Sure, it's only April, but there are plenty of players that are hitting below their weight. Nick SwisherCarlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera have combined to hit just .181 (36-for-199) with four homers and 16 RBI to start the season.

With a record of 8-10, the Indians sit just 2.5 games out despite sitting in the basement of the American League Central Division. Believe it or not, the club opened 2013 posting the same exact record through the first 18 games.

Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has caught fire at the plate, collecting eight hits in his last 17 at-bats (.471). The 25-year-old slugger currently leads Cleveland in average (.448), on-base percentage (.484), slugging percentage (.621) and OPS (1.105).

News and notes

  • Indians manager Terry Francona noted designated hitter Jason Giambi will be activated from the disabled list on Monday. The 43-year-old "Big G" hit .183 with nine home runs and 31 RBI in his first stint with the Tribe last year. 
  • Left-handed reliever Josh Outman (3-0, 1.42 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise in the Indians bullpen, leading the team with three victories in just 6 1/3 innings of work. Outman came to Cleveland this past January when the Tribe dealt outfielder Drew Stubbs to Colorado. Only Toronto's Mark Buehrle and St. Louis' Lance Lynn have won more games to start the 2014 season. Could it be the stirrups?
  • Rookie starting pitcher Trevor Bauer continues to impress in Triple-A Columbus, going 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two starts this year allowing just one run in 12 innings. After making a solid spot start for the Tribe back on April 9, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Bauer make a more permanent role in the starting rotation if Carlos Carrasco continues to struggle.
  • Indians 2013 first round draft pick Clint Frazier made his debut for the Single-A Lake County Captains this past week. The 19-year-old phenom outfielder has hit .308 (4-for-13) with a double and three RBI through his first four games.

Birdman's Final Call

It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.

The baseball season is a long 162-game journey that spans six months.

We're just three full weeks into the Major League Baseball season, and yet I already sense a negative attitude towards the Indians.

No, they haven't looked great. No, they haven't looked like the playoff team they were in 2013. But it is still way too early to close up shop and say they won't be a playoff team once again.

Things change, injuries happen and trades are made.

Remember the 2002 Indians?

They started out with a record of 11-1. How did that turn out?

Or don't even make me mention the rise and fall of Mark Reynolds from one season ago.

The sun is starting to come out more, the weather is getting nicer and summer is upon us.

Whether they are successful or not by the end of it, simply enjoy the ride.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at

User Comments

April 21, 2014 - 2:53 PM EDT
Don't know about you guys but Bourne strikes out too much, doesn't put the ball on the ground to utilize his speed, and doesn't/can't bunt...also I see Salazar as a closer in the future.
Canadian Joe
April 21, 2014 - 10:38 AM EDT
I think we are all panicking a bit about the starting pitching. 3-4 starts is not enough to start bringing pitchers in and farming others out. If Carrasco goes out, Tomlin or Bauer come up. How many starts do they get before we want another. Have to look at early/mid May before we start looking for changes.
I agree that with Bourn's contract he is going to play. Trading him would be an option, but who picks up that contract, and who replaces him.
As far as Giambi goes, Tito, bite the bullet. Yes, he came thru a couple of times last year, but still only hit .190. And he is a year older !!! A right handed run producer is much more important. If Giambi is that good in the clubhouse, make him a coach. End of discussion.
April 21, 2014 - 10:03 AM EDT
"NM"s stats were bound to drop somewhat, and he's really not a good fielder, at all, so I'm not too sad to see Bourn back out there."

Nyjer Morgan has always been not just a good fielder, but borderline great fielder....

Obviously with age he's slowing down but still a solid fielder, and not saying he's better than Bourn there, but essentially calling him a bad fielder...that's a stretch.
April 21, 2014 - 9:58 AM EDT
Morgan was hitting the ball well early, but he is in no way anywhere near the center fielder that Bourn is. He never appeared to get a good read off the bat, something I see Bourn do very well as Bourn gets to the ball effortlessly. There is no arguing that Bourn has been frustrating offensively to start this season, but I will take his defense out in center field. One other thing I noticed about Morgan, he never appeared to be a fit in that dugout. There is a special bond among those players and I am not certain that Morgan was ever accepted. When the cameras peek in on that dugout you see players grouped together laughing, I saw Morgan sitting alone insisting the cameras get out of the dugout. I found that strange.
April 21, 2014 - 9:56 AM EDT
still not sold you drop Carrasco for Bauer...

Salazar has been arguably worse to this point. Sending him to AAA and giving Bauer some starts may be the way to go. Get Salazar right then bring him back potentially for Carrasco in May.

Tribe is gonna have a tough time competing if Salzar can't even average 5 innings (4.2 IP/start right now)...
April 21, 2014 - 8:50 AM EDT
With so many pitchers falling to TJ surgery, even with command issues, Carrasco would be hot commodity. If the Indians were to trade him he holds little trade value at this time. If the Indians release him he would be picked up by another team in 3 seconds,

I think yesterday was his best showing of the season. The 4 th inning 3 run inning is what prevented him from gaining his 1st victory of the season.
April 21, 2014 - 3:28 AM EDT
C.L., I'll return the favor: Masterson is an excellent similar example. A big, strong kid, gifted with good stuff, the potential to be, at worst, an innings-eating major league starting pitcher. It distressed me no end that people wanted to stick him in the bullpen. What a complete waste. Same with Carrasco, a big, strong kid with an even broader array of major league quality pitches. Bullpen? Come on. Relievers grow on trees. I feel the same about Carrasco as I did about Justin; either they were starters or you trade him away, because if you don't think they have the talent, stuff, or capacity between the ears to be starters, why do you want to mess around with them in the bullpen? (And don't say that Carrasco "proved" last year he would be good in relief; go back and look at his appearances. He was virtually never used with the game in the balance; it was pure mop up duty).
C L. Who
April 21, 2014 - 2:02 AM EDT
Avory makes a good point about CC. I recall the same agony over Masterson in 2010....should he be a starter or in the pen?

As for Bourn, well, he's got a $12 MM per year contract. I would be surprised if he weren't played over Morgan, no matter how good Morgan has been. NM"s stats were bound to drop somewhat, and he's really not a good fielder, at all, so I'm not too sad to see Bourn back out there.
April 21, 2014 - 1:12 AM EDT
The last time Carlos Carrasco was healthy, confident, and secure in his position as a guy taking a regular turn in the rotation was 2011, right before he got hurt and was forced to have elbow ligament surgery.

I urge everyone to look at the game logs of Carlos's eight starts in late May through June of that year, where he averaged 7 innings a start with a 0.94 WHIP and lowered his ERA from 5.00 to 3.54...he was all he was advertised to be at 24 years of age, and experience could only make him better. But then he simply got hurt, and pitched all of July with a throbbing elbow. Nonetheless, in early August 2011 at Fenway Park, Carlos gutted out seven full, surrendering only 3 runs. It was his last major league appearance until 2013. The kid deserves patience, not people anxious to move him out for the next flavor (it wasn't that long ago that poor Trevor was the favored whipping boy). Starting pitchers don't grow on trees (except maybe in Oakland) and we're going to lose Masterson. We can't afford to toss away a starting talent like Carlos Carrasco on the basis of three or four measly starts.
April 20, 2014 - 11:51 PM EDT

The negative regarding the Indians actually started during the hot stove season when many claim we didn't sign or trade for anybody special in there eyes.

The question would you rather put up with $500k Carrasco or with the new contract that the 0-3 Ubaldo Jimenez? Which many wanted the Indians to sign.

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