DETROIT -- A light snowfall and frigid temperatures robbed Michael Bourn of his first game of the season with the Indians on Tuesday. Inside the warm confines of Comerica Park's visitors' clubhouse, the center fielder was just thrilled to be back with the team.
Even though the series opener against the Tigers was postponed due to inclement weather, the Indians activated Bourn from the 15-day disabled list, following his comeback from a left hamstring strain. To clear a spot on the active roster, the Tribe optioned outfielder Nyjer Morgan to Triple-A Columbus.
"I am happy, man. You miss it when you're gone," Bourn said. "I'm ecstatic to be back and ready to just join the team and help in any way that I can."
The 31-year-old Bourn strained his hamstring while running the bases in a Spring Training game against the Giants on March 16. The center fielder originally hoped to return in time for Opening Day, but Cleveland took a cautious approach with his comeback, especially considering how important Bourn's legs are to his style of play.
Bourn appeared in five Minor League games between rehab trips to Triple-A Columbus and Double-A Akron, hitting .150 (3-for-20) with two walks and one stolen base. Bourn, who reiterated that the recent injury was unrelated to the offseason surgery he had on the same hamstring, said he was happy with the variety of ways he was able to test his leg during the games.
"Confidence is everything with it," he said. "That's the most important thing. I stole a base just to test myself out, and was able to run down the line good, and things of that nature. It felt good. It felt fine. I'll just try to go out there and play."
The Indians could have optioned a reliever, but manager Terry Francona felt it was more important to maintain the team's eight-man bullpen right now. Entering Tuesday, Cleveland's rotation ranked last in the American League with an average of 5 1/3 innings per start, putting extra strain on the relief corps.
Given that Bourn and Morgan are both left-handed-hitting center fielders, Francona said Morgan became the odd-man out.
"It wasn't really a tough decision," Francona said. "I mean, it was difficult in the fact that [Morgan] had done so well and I don't think anybody thought he deserved to go to Triple-A. But, when you look at the way our team is constituted, we needed to stay with the extra pitcher in the bullpen."
In nine games, Morgan posted a .348/.484/.348 slash line with three stolen bases, four runs and four RBIs.
"He's been [electric] for us," Bourn said. "He's been playing good defense, being good in the leadoff spot. He's a proven player in the big leagues. He's been in the big leagues for about six, seven years now. People know around the league what he can do. He held it down while I was gone."