CLEVELAND -- As expected, the Indians activated Michael Bourn on Friday, leaving the speedy center fielder six weeks to try to help take a .500 team into playoff contention.
On the disabled list since July 6 with another left hamstring injury (his third of the season), Bourn took the roster spot of right-handed reliever John Axford, the Tribe's former closer who was claimed on outright waivers Thursday by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Whether Bourn -- who has been plagued by hamstring issues since the Indians signed him to a four-year, $48 million deal before last season -- can make that much of an impact is unknown.
His season to date has been a disappointment, largely because of constant problems with the hamstring he had surgically repaired last October after problems with it arose late in the 2013 campaign.
When Bourn is healthy, he makes an impact defensively and offensively. In 66 games this season, he's hitting .267 with nine doubles, seven triples, three home runs and 21 RBI. He's also stolen seven bases and scored 37 runs.
Before rejoining the Indians, Bourn made five rehab appearances in the minors between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. He managed only two hits in a combined 23 at-bats, including going hitless (0-for-4) in his final game Thursday with the Clippers. But all Indians officials wanted to see was proof that he was healthy once again.
"Offensively and on the bases defensively, his legs are a huge part of his contributions," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "So, based upon the information we're receiving from all the medical experts, they don't feel 1/8Bourn's nagging left hamstring3/8 will be a lingering issue moving forward or that he'll be compromised. But, like anything, we'll have to see how it plays out."
Despite being activated in time for the Tribe's weekend series the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field, Bourn wasn't in Friday's lineup against left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen. However, Bourn is expected to play in Saturday's and Sunday's games.
"1/8Bourn3/8 was going to play 1/8Friday3/8, but he can only play two this weekend," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It just seemed to make sense to play him 1/8Saturday3/8, then we'll see how he bounces back on Sunday. If he's fine, we'll play him Sunday also."
The Indians coped with Bourn's lengthy absence by sliding left fielder Michael Brantley over to center field and moving second baseman Jason Kipnis into the leadoff spot in the lineup. Unfortunately, Plan B was only 50 percent effective: Although Brantley made a seamless defensive transition, Kipnis struggled at the top of the lineup, hitting just .239.
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