Astros' new center fielder admits he has plenty to learn Print
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Friday, 22 February 2008 11:52
MLB Headline News

 KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -Michael Bourn arrived at spring training four days before the Houston Astros' first full-squad workout, looked around and wondered why he was the only position player in the clubhouse.
``Honestly, I thought that's how the young players do it,'' said Bourn, the speedy outfielder acquired from Philadelphia in the offseason. ``When I was with the Phillies, Chase (Utley) had come in and beaten me by a day. So I was like, 'Oh, I better not let that ever happen again.'''
One lesson learned, many more to go.
Bourn will take over as the Astros' everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter this season, a demanding assignment for a player with only 15 major league starts and 127 at-bats. He's asked manager Cecil Cooper if he can get individual instruction on skills he needs to perfect, like baserunning and bunting.
``I'm a baby at this game,'' Bourn said with a sigh. ``I just have to take it day by day. I'm not going to learn it all in one year, that's just not going to happen. But I don't know any player who's done it yet.''
Bourn was thrilled when his hometown team traded for him in a five-player swap that sent reliever Brad Lidge to the Phillies. But Bourn realizes now there's a downside to playing where he grew up - friends and family members will regularly pester him for tickets and local fans will keep a critical eye on his progress.
``It all comes with the territory,'' Bourn said. ``But I don't think there will be anything put on my shoulders that I can't handle.''
Just to make sure, Cooper sat down with Bourn on Thursday to discuss the various pressures he's going to face.
``The only thing I'm really concerned about is just a young guy getting an opportunity to play every day,'' Cooper said. ``I know what that's like. It's difficult for a young kid.''
Bourn will provide a base-stealing threat the Astros lacked last season and Cooper said he'll have the green light to go whenever he sees an opportunity. Bourn spent five weeks this winter doing sprint drills and lifting weights in Arizona with Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford, another Houstonian.
``He's aware of all the things he's got to get after and work on,'' Cooper said. ``It's up to us to make sure that time is there for him.''
After Friday's workout, about two dozen fans yelled Bourn's name and chased him for an autograph. Bourn shook his head and smiled as he walked to a batting cage for more practice, promising to sign when he returned.
``You have to tell everybody that baseball is the No. 1 priority,'' said Bourn, a star player at the University of Houston from 2000-03. ``I've got to take care of my business first. I'm only one person. I'm going to do what I can do.''
Bourn toiled in the minor leagues for nearly four seasons before the Phillies finally called him up in July 2006. He left the team later that summer to play for the U.S. Olympic qualifying team, then was recalled to the majors in September. He stuck with the Phillies all last season and batted .277 with 18 stolen bases in 119 at-bats.
Astros general manager Ed Wade, the Phillies' GM from 1998-2005, also added power-hitting shortstop Miguel Tejada and speedy second baseman Kaz Matsui to Houston's revamped lineup, but he and Cooper are counting on Bourn to be the catalyst.
``There will be a lot of pressure on him. He'll be highly scrutinized,'' Cooper said. ``Then, to be the kid that's got to set the tone, that's pressure.''
Astros hitting coach Sean Berry said Bourn has shown he can absorb a lot of information at once.
``He's going to have about 600 at-bats, so I'm trying to prepare him for everything,'' Berry said. ``We've talked about how important it is for him to see lots of pitches, the importance of his on-base percentage, how important it is for him to bunt. It is a lot for him to take in, but he's such a great athlete, he has such great skills, he should be fine.''
Bourn envisions a day, several seasons from now, when he'll arrive at spring training when he wants, like All-Star sluggers Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. Those two arrived only minutes before the first full workout and Bourn took notice.
``This is only my second year,'' Bourn said. ``I can't come in when they come in. They've already put in the time and their work. Hopefully one day, I can be like them, I'll come in the day of (the first workout) and nobody will have a problem with it at all.''
 

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