Sam Donnellon | Bourn to win

ROOKIE OUTFIELDER STARTING TO CONTRIBUTE

Posted: June 27, 2007

THERE'S SOMETHING very American Legion about games Michael Bourn gets to play in. Or maybe it's Babe Ruth League stuff even,

because, well, it's just not supposed to happen on this level.

Whether he's jumping around off third base, stealing second without a throw, or initiating the old second-and-home

delayed double steal as he did

in the Phillies' 11-4

victory over the Cincinnati Reds last night, Bourn is yet another reason to watch the Phillies during this uneven, injury-riddled, sometimes maddening season.

He stole his 11th base last night, triggering Carlos Ruiz' rumbling steal of home with two outs in the second, doubling what might have been a two-run inning into twice that, giving the Phillies a 6-1 lead.

Starting in the two-hole for the second game in a row after Sunday's three-hit effort, Bourn walked twice in the first two

table-setting innings, and reached base in three of his

five plate appearances. This came on the heels of his three-hit, two-RBI effort in Sunday's 5-1 victory over the Cardinals.

"Guy gets on three times," Charlie Manuel said before last night's game, "you consider him for another start."

With Pat Burrell's bat and psyche reduced to sawdust these days, Manuel gets understandably excited when he talks up a lineup in which five of the first six hitters have good averages and base-stealing speed, a lineup that balances nicely between lefty and righty hitters, a lineup of both legs and lumber. But it only works if the glimpses of the 24-year-old rookie are

accurate reads, if Bourn's self-analysis that, "I'm just scratching the surface for me," proves to be true.

He's batting .306 after last night's effort, with an on-base percentage of .404. With only 57 plate appearances, Bourn's 11 steals leads all National League rookies.

Manuel, who has been around the player since his days with Class A Lakewood, spoke last night about the improvements he's already made as a hitter, about the position of his hands, about an improved approach.

"He's been doing a lot of work," the manager said. "I see his everyday work."

Bourn has never hit less than .268 in his four minor league seasons, but the word that has followed him at each level is raw. There have been times this season when that has been evident, like when his aggressiveness

resulted in a game-ending doubleplay earlier in the season. Asked yesterday if he projected Bourn to be an everyday player someday, Manuel said, "I think you definitely have to see him play a little longer."

There's enough to like already - enough to induce some teams to inquire about his availability in a trade. That "Maserati speed," as Phillies coach Davey Lopes calls it, is his calling card, but the best thing to like long range might be his

attitude and approach.

"He wanted to learn from Day 1 in spring training," Lopes said of the outfielder. "He's the one who comes and gets me most of the time. That's the

student in him."

As Lopes said later, a lot of guys with speed wouldn't see the need to learn what Bourn called "the art" of baserunning - something Lopes clearly has his doctorate in. As a 40-year-old man, Lopes stole 47 bases, and finished his 16-year career with 557 steals. Bourn has been told this, and has watched Shane Victorino explode into a league leader this year with Lopes working the ropes.

"To do what he's done," Lopes said of Bourn. "Sit on the bench and do what he's done at this point of the year. You have to be an individual who's played the game to appreciate what he's done. To be able to come in there and get a hit at a certain time, to hit a line drive . . . Just to have a quality at-bat after not coming to plate days upon days, it's not an easy thing to do.

"I've just tried to stay ready, and learn as much as I can when I'm on the bench," Bourn said. "I come in, every day, and check the lineup. If I'm in there I'm in there. I come here, ready to play every day."

Tonight would be a third straight start for Bourn. After last night's unexpected and

rare easy win, Manuel meandered happily on about his latest lineup concoction, about how "energy" and "hustle" permeates the attitude of an entire team - maybe even makes a catcher with one career stolen base think he can steal home.

So Bourn gets another go?

"We'll see," Charlie chuckled. "I'll come to the ballpark tomorrow and make my lineup out.

"But he's got a good chance." *

Send e-mail to

donnels@phillynews.com.

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http://go.philly.com/donnellon.

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