A healthy Michael Bourn may make all the difference in ’15

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Since inking a four-year, $48 million contract with the team prior to the 2013 season, Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Bourn was one of the most highly-regarded outfielders in all of Major League Baseball.

From 2009 to 2012, the speedy outfielder averaged a .280/.348/.378 slash-line to go along with 54 stolen bases with the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves. During that stretch, Bourn racked up a pair of All-Star selections, as well as two Gold Glove awards for his defensive work in center field.

However, since then, his production has been quite different.

In the past two seasons with the Indians, in which the club finished second and third, respectively, Bourn has slashed just .260/.315/.360 across 236 games, while stealing just 33 bases during that stretch. When he initially signed his deal with Cleveland, many questioned the move because of concerns about his legs as he aged – and – to this point, those concerns have been spot-on.

This offseason, the 32-year-old veteran has put in work to re-establish himself as one of the premier base-stealers in all of Major League Baseball.

According to MLB.com, Bourn spent this winter working with former Olympian Leroy Burrell in hopes of lessening the load on his hamstrings, which has cost him significant time since he came to Cleveland.

"“I never lost my explosiveness. That never was a problem. I just had to get comfortable coming back off a hamstring injury to have that wherewithal of, ‘OK don’t worry about that.’ I felt like my last couple months last year, I felt much better. I felt like I got it stronger and it was back to where I could start running again. I just built on that going into the offseason.”"

With the breakout season his outfield teammate Michael Brantley put together in 2014 (.327/.385/.506, 20 home runs, 97 RBI) – the Indians have found a new leader – at least in terms of offense. Coupling Brantley’s newfound power with a legitimate on-base threat at the top of the order in Bourn would push this lineup over the top in what should be a very competitive American League Central.

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Not only would Brantley’s power be nice for manager Terry Francona, but, coupled with a healthy Bourn, he would have multiple stolen base threats in the lineup on a daily basis. Last season, Brantley swiped 23 bags – and was caught just once.

As a team, the Indians ranked ninth in all of baseball, stealing 109 bases. If Bourn brings the speed he’s capable of, there’s no reason to believe the club can’t lead the American League in this category.

With Nick Swisher and Brandon Moss not expected to be ready until mid-March, now is the time for Michael Bourn to show that he’s 100 percent healthy and ready to be the player the Indians signed two winters ago.

If he can do that, the Cleveland offense will be an entirely different animal than in 2014.

Next: Who should bat leadoff for the Cleveland Indians?

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