CLE@SD: Bourn tracks one down in deep center

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."

Quote to note

"I would much rather play a doubleheader in warmer weather later in the year. Today's one of those days that, if you end up playing and you win, you're glad you played. But, if you lose, then it's kind of like why in the world did we even play today?"
-- Indians manager Terry Francona on the postponement of Tuesday's series opener due to inclement weather in Detroit.

Smoke signals

SD@CLE: Axford preserves the shutout for the Indians

• Francona indicated on Tuesday that designated hitter/pinch-hitter Jason Giambi is scheduled to play another Minor League rehab game with Double-A Akron on Wednesday. The 43-year-old Giambi (on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured rib in his right side) could be activated for Cleveland's upcoming homestand, which begins on Friday.

"I think that's realistic," Francona said. "I think he's actually pretty good about being honest. When he comes back, he wants to be able to help us, and be healthy enough to get his swings and have enough timing to do some damage."

• New Tribe closer John Axford has issued six walks through 5 2/3 innings this season. Axford has averaged four walks per nine innings over the course of his career and walked 26 in 65 innings between stints with the Brewers and Cardinals last year. Francona said it's too early to be overly concerned with the closer's current walk rate.

"We're pretty early," Francona said. "It's not like he's going out there trying to walk people. I do think that as you settle into the season and the sample size gets bigger, then you can kind of look at stuff like that."

• On Tuesday, the Indians named Triple-A Columbus first baseman Jesus Aguilar the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for April 4-13. During that time period, Aguilar hit .417 (15-for-36) with three homers, four doubles, eight runs, eight RBIs and a 1.266 OPS in 10 games. Aguilar is ranked as the Tribe's No. 19 prospect, according to MLB.com.