Bourn to become Astros' starting center fielder Print
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Thursday, 08 November 2007 15:51
MLB Headline News

 HOUSTON (AP) -Michael Bourn is glad to be home again.
The speedy outfielder was all smiles as he donned a Houston jersey and cap Thursday at Minute Maid Park on Thursday. A day earlier, the Astros traded closer Brad Lidge and infielder Eric Bruntlett to Philadelphia for Bourn, third baseman Michael Costanzo and left-handed reliever Geoff Geary.
``It was shocking for me, at first,'' said Bourn, who hit .277 in 2007, his first full season in the majors. ``It was the last thing I expected. I just wasn't paying attention to all the acquisitions going on during the offseason.''
The 24-year-old Bourn grew up in Houston and played at the University of Houston. He was drafted by the Astros in 2000, but did not sign. He bounced around the minor leagues until Philadelphia took him in June 2003 draft, when current Astros general manager Ed Wade was the Phillies GM.
Wade saw Bourn's speed firsthand during a workout at the Florida instructional league in 2004. Most of the Phillies player development staff was there and Wade said each put up $20 to wager on a sprint between Bourn and three other prospects.
Bourn won easily.
``It was a lucrative day for Michael,'' Wade said. ``I think he made more in about 11 seconds of running than we probably paid out in his monthly salary at that point in time.''
Bourn will take over center field for Houston after playing left in 79 games for the Phillies last season. He played 12 games in center field and six games in left. Bourn made 84 catches without an error last year and also stole 18 bases in 19 tries.
Wade hinted that Bourn will lead off, filling the role vacated when Willy Taveras was traded to Colorado before last season.
``What we want to create an opportunity at the top of our batting order where we've got the leadoff hitter and the No. 2 hitter being productive, on-base guys, have speed,'' Wade said. ``We want to be more potent offensive club.''
Getting a chance to be a full-time starter is a dream come true for Bourn. Getting to play in his hometown is a bonus he never expected.
``It's going to mean a lot,'' Bourn said.
Hunter Pence will move to right field for the Astros next season, apparently leaving Luke Scott as the odd man out.
``This is a move that we think improves our club immediately,'' Wade said. ``From a timing standpoint, it made all the sense in the world. It sets the stage for us to be able to focus on other issues for the rest of the offseason and try to do everything we can to fill our needs and put an exciting club on the field.''
Wade said the Astros ``kicked the tires'' on free agent outfielders Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand before focusing on Bourn.
With Lidge gone, Wade said the Astros would be ``aggressive on all fronts'' as they search for a new closer. Chad Qualls is the only pitcher left on the roster with more than one save in 2007, and he had only five in 11 chances.
``If we can add back of the bullpen help, at this point in time, either through free agency or a trade, we're going to try to do that,'' Wade said.
 

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