Megan Zahneis

Veteran Bourn proving good fit with D-backs

Veteran Bourn proving good fit with D-backs

The dry heat of the desert suits Michael Bourn well. A few months into his tenure with the D-backs, Bourn has proven a bright spot in an otherwise bleary season for Arizona.

Bourn has been a nice addition for his new ballclub in more ways than one. The biggest credit to his name comes in his defensive prowess and speed, but the 33-year-old's work at the plate has surprised even the man himself.

That's because Bourn had a more tumultuous beginning to the season than most. To start, he was cut by the Braves on the last day of Spring Training, ostensibly to make room on Atlanta's roster for fellow veteran Jeff Francoeur. And so the two-time All-Star and Gold Glover spent Opening Day on his living-room couch, without a team for the first time in his 11-year career.

"'I guess anything can happen, and I just have to take it with a grain of salt,'" Bourn recalled thinking. "'There's nothing I can do about it.'

"[Braves brass] were saying how much they didn't want to do it, but it was done. I had to go back and try to start from scratch. One thing about life is that when something is taken away from you, you realize how much it means to you. That's what happened to me."

It would be nearly two weeks of sitting at home before Bourn had a job again, this time with the Toronto Blue Jays' Class A Advanced club in Dunedin, Fla. And yet, he'd barely had time to unpack his suitcase when, two weeks to the date after signing Bourn, the organization decided to part ways with him.

It was deja vu, and not in a welcome way: designated for assignment twice in the span of less than a month, after nine full years as a Major League ballplayer.

By now, Bourn was practiced in waiting for the phone to ring. So back to his Houston home it was. Quitting, after all, was never an option.

"Those hours, when I was sitting at home, I was used to doing something," Bourn said. "I'm not used to sitting back, maybe working out for a bit, hitting and throwing.

"I wasn't used to it, and I wasn't trying to get used to it."

As it turned out, Bourn didn't have to. Two days after being dropped by Toronto, he heard from the D-backs, who inked him to a Minor League deal and assigned him to Double-A Mobile. Bourn hopped on the next flight to Mississippi, where the Mobile BayBears were coincidentally facing off against the Mississippi Braves, the Double-A affiliate of his former club.

Four days later, Bourn was heading back to his hotel after a night game in Mobile when he got a call from his manager. He was heading to the big leagues, 10 years after he first broke in. Even then, Bourn worried if he would be able to fit into a Major League lineup after not playing regularly for the first month of the season. Would his timing at the plate return?

Arizona hitting coach Dave Magadan had no such concern after seeing Bourn take a few hacks.

"There really hasn't been much work on my part," Magadan said. "He showed up swinging the bat really well, wasn't playing a whole lot early on, kind of [filling in on] spot duty, and then he played himself right into the lineup on almost an everyday basis."

Bourn has started all six games for the D-backs this month. By Magadan's account, none of this should have happened.

"[Getting Bourn] was a surprise. I'd always seen Michael, never had him [on my team] before, and always admired the way he played and the way he hit," Magadan said. "To see him bounce around the way he did the last year and a half, it was a little surprising, a guy with that kind of talent."

And now, Bourn is making Magadan and the D-backs, who scouted him in the offseason, look good.

"I'm glad I am," Bourn said with a smile. "I'm just glad they gave me the opportunity, I really am. They say beggars can't be choosers. At that time [earlier in the season], I was pretty much in a 'beggar' situation."

Megan Zahneis is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.