When you listen to manager Charlie Manuel and general manager Pat Gillick, it sounds as if the Phillies have more planned for Michael Bourn than just a role as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Barring an unforeseen development, Bourn, 24, has earned a spot on the Phils' opening-day roster with a solid spring.
"If he does [stay], we'd probably give him a little more of an opportunity to play than people think," Gillick said before last night's exhibition game against the Boston Red Sox at chilly Citizens Bank Park. "He's a good defensive player, and his speed is his best tool - and he can get the other team off balance."
The lefthanded-hitting Bourn is batting .290 with eight steals in nine attempts this spring. Entering last night, he was tied for the Grapefruit League lead in runs (17) and tied for second in the National League in steals and triples (2).
"I just wanted to play as hard as I could, and hopefully something positive would happen," Bourn said. "I'm happy with what I've done this spring, but I don't ever want to be satisfied."
A natural centerfielder, Bourn was selected in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. He spent time last year with double-A Reading (.274 in 318 at-bats); triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (.283 in 152 at-bats); and the Phillies (.125 in eight at-bats).
He finished the season with a combined 46 steals in 53 attempts and won the Paul Owens Award as the Phillies' best minor-league position player.
Manuel has been impressed with Bourn's game this spring.
"He brings a lot of energy and speed," he said. "He's a good defensive player with a good arm, and he can steal bases and make things happen. He fits in good with the speed of [Jimmy] Rollins and [Chase Utley] and [Shane] Victorino."
Asked whether he saw Bourn's being more than a late-inning defensive replacement for leftfielder Pat Burrell, Manuel smiled.
"I can see him playing some, and we'll see how he does," the manager said. "And he can play all three outfield positions."
Though he conceded that "my home is center" and that he was less familiar with left field than the other outfield positions, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Bourn doesn't think it will be a problem when he goes into left.
"It won't be tough to adjust. I'll just get more reps, and I'll be all right," he said. "Wherever they ask me to go, I'll be ready."
For now, the Phillies think Bourn is more valuable as a major-league reserve than he would be playing every day in triple-A Ottawa. That suits Bourn.
"This is where you want to be," he said. "I'll just have to wait for an opportunity."
The Phillies will conclude their exhibition season by facing the Red Sox at 1:05 p.m. today. Adam Eaton (0-2, 6.06 this spring) will face Boston's Japanese phenom, Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose first name is pronounced Dice-K. A Phillies spokesman said 1,000 seats remain, along with standing-room tickets.
Matsuzaka, 26, is 1-1 with a 2.04 ERA this spring, and opponents are batting .148 against him in 17 2/3 innings.
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Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at 215-854-5181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.