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Numbers aside, speed still key for Bourn, Tribe

Numbers aside, speed still key for Bourn, Tribe

MIAMI -- Michael Bourn joined the Indians this season as one of the game's premier base stealers. The fleet-footed center fielder's numbers have been down in that department this year, but he is not getting too worked up over it.

Bourn knows he is still more than capable of altering a game with his legs.

"It's nothing I want to force upon myself," Bourn said. "If I can get a good jump, no matter how quick the pitcher is, I'm going to go. But they're mixing up everything. That means they're paying a lot of attention to me. A lot of attention on me is less attention on the hitter."

With Bourn creating a distraction on the bases, even if he does not run, the Indians feel that hitters such as Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis or Asdrubal Cabrera will see better pitches to attack.

In Saturday's 4-3 win over the Marlins, Bourn matched a career high with three stolen bases, Drew Stubbs chipped in two and the Indians posted their highest single-game total (six swipes) since Sept. 21, 2000. That upped Cleveland's stolen-base total on the season to 84, which was tied for the most in the American League, entering Sunday.

So, while Bourn's season showing of 16 thefts is low by his standards -- he averaged 51 stolen bases per year from 2008-2012 -- the Indians are still having success on the basepaths. In fact, Cleveland's 79-percent success rate on stolen bases ranks as the third-best percentage in the AL. The Indians also have the most stolen bases of third base (17) in the league.

"He's been very intelligent on the bases, and he hasn't run into very many outs," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Bourn. "That's important. When he gets on, every [pitcher] pretty much has been 1.1 or 1.2 [seconds] to the plate, so it doesn't always show up in stolen bases.

"But maybe Swish or Kip or Cabby, whoever's hitting there, they might be getting better pitches to hit."

The Indians have also used their speed in other ways beyond stolen bases.

Entering Sunday, Cleveland ranked first in the AL and second in the Majors in going first to third (or first to home) 76 times on the season. Bourn and Stubbs had done so 11 times apiece, putting them among the AL's top 12 runners in that category.

"The league overall handles stolen bases better now," Francona said. "It's part of the game, and pitchers' times to the plate are pretty consistent. You look up, you can come into a city and we're two-thirds of the way through the season and some guys ... it's not the big numbers as you saw a few years ago."

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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