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Bourn signing alters Indians' clubhouse attitude

Bourn signing alters Indians' clubhouse attitude play video for Bourn signing alters Indians' clubhouse attitude

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There is a drastically different vibe developing inside the Indians' clubhouse. It is loud and the players are laughing, having a great time. This goes beyond the annual spring optimism found in every camp. This is the result of a change in culture brought on by a flurry of high-profile moves.

On Tuesday morning, manager Terry Francona stopped by the clubhouse, sat on a table, and chatted with a handful of pitchers. Shortly after Tuesday's workout, Nick Swisher tossed a football in the long, narrow room with second baseman Jason Kipnis

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Players and reporters tried to guess which empty locker would soon house Michael Bourn.

Closer Chris Perez -- entering his fifth season with the team -- said it has been refreshing.

"It's a lot more fun than I've had in a long time here," Perez said. "It feels like we're a big-market club."

This is the same Perez who criticized ownership down the stretch last season, when the Indians were wrapping up a 94-loss season. Needless to say, after the team spent $117 million on guaranteed contracts this offseason, things have changed in a big way. Bourn is the latest addition in one of the busiest winters in team history.

News spread swiftly on Monday night that Cleveland had reached an agreement with Bourn on a four-year contract worth $48 million. Bourn -- penciled in as the Indians' new leadoff man and center fielder -- is scheduled to undergo a physical with the team later this week to complete the deal, which includes a vesting option worth $12 million for 2017.

The deal comes after Cleveland already committed $56 million to Swisher over a four-year deal.

The news of Bourn's new home not only caught the baseball world by surprise, it stunned his new teammates.

"I didn't see it coming," Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano said. "I thought that after Nick and some of the other signings that we made, that we were done as far as big contracts go. I don't think the media or anybody else expected us to go out and sign Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn and make all these additions.

"It's great. It's awesome from a player's perspective to see that."

Adding Bourn will have a ripple effect on the alignment of Cleveland's defense.

On Tuesday, Francona met with Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs to discuss the situation. Swisher will shift from right field to first base, Reynolds will assume the primary designated hitter duties and play first on a part-time basis, Brantley (Cleveland's center fielder last year) will move to left field and Stubbs (a center fielder by trade) will play right.

"We still have a hole in center field," quipped Francona, who will not discuss Bourn specifically until the deal is official. "That will take care of itself."

Swisher was fine with moving to first base, which is a position he has played plenty throughout his career.

"It doesn't matter to me," Swisher said. "Whatever I have to do to help the team win."

Brantley adopted the same attitude.

"I'm just looking forward to being by his side," Brantley said of Bourn. "It doesn't really matter to me. I'm sure he'll be in here soon. He'll be a nice player to meet."

Brett Myers, who signed a one-year deal worth $7 million with Cleveland this winter, previously played with Bourn in the Phillies' system and with the Astros. The right-hander praised the center fielder's stellar defense and added that the lineup will benefit from Bourn's speed.

"Just look at his numbers," Myers said. "He goes after baseballs in the outfield. It's the same with Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley. Those guys are fast guys, man. They run down everything. It's fun to watch him play. I like watching him run, too. When he gets on and gets a single, it's going to be a double in a second. He's that fast."

In 155 games with the Braves last season, Bourn hit .274 with a .348 on-base percentage and a .391 slugging percentage, compiling nine homers, 26 doubles, 10 triples, 57 RBIs, 42 stolen bases and 96 runs in the process. He has stolen more than 50 bases in a season three times in his career and is rated as the game's top center fielder by multiple metrics.

"That's probably one of the fastest outfields in the Major Leagues," Brantley said of teaming with Stubbs and Bourn.

Overall, the Indians are suddenly one of the game's most intriguing teams.

After the turmoil of previous years, this has been a welcomed change for the Indians' players.

"There's just a different feeling," Perez said. "It's a better feeling than coming back and saying, 'All right, we're going to have a young team. We're going to have some ups and downs. They're might be talent, but we're going to have to have our ups and downs.' There's none of that talk this year. We're here to compete. We're here to win.

"It's not a country club atmosphere anymore. It's time to work and get ready for the season."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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