Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Bourn wants to focus on 2012 season, not next contract

Cox NewspapersMarch 14, 2012 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It’s Michael Bourn’s desire to play where he is wanted. The Braves say they would like to have him in uniform past this season.

How it works out remains to be seen. However, the Braves are counting on a full season with the speedy center fielder as the leadoff hitter they have coveted since 2006.

Bourn, who will be a free agent following this season, said he has not been contacted by the Braves about a new contract. He said he would prefer to concentrate on the coming season than to worry about where he will play next year.

“I would rather just play the season with a clear mind and worry about the game, who is pitching, that kind of stuff, rather than a deal,” said Bourn, who is represented by Scott Boras.

For the Braves’ part, general manager Frank Wren said the team would keep negotiation details in-house.

“Our basic philosophy is we have expressed that we would like to retain Michael and then, from there, we go silent,” Wren said. “When we approach him, before or after the season, those are things we prefer not to talk about.

“He is a guy that we like on our team. We think he fits really well. We like everything about him. We think his makeup is great. Good teammate. He works hard. He plays the game well. So he is the perfect fit for us, so our desire is that he stays with us beyond this year.”

Bourn, 29, gives the Braves a leadoff hitter who can steal bases and manufacture runs, something they have not had since Rafael Furcal left after the 2005 season. Bourn led the major leagues in stolen bases in each of the past three seasons, totaling 174. He had a team-high 22 stolen bases for the Braves in 53 games after being acquired in a trade with the Astros. The rest of the Braves combined for 55 steals for the season.

Since Furcal stole 46 bases in 2005, the Braves have been led in the category by Edgar Renteria (17), Willie Harris (17), Gregor Blanco (13), Nate McLouth and Matt Diaz (12 each) and Jason Heyward (11).

“(Speed) comes to the ballpark every day. The three-run homer doesn’t,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Bourn said he did not feel any added pressure last season to help the Braves in their run for the postseason, which ultimately failed when they lost 20 of their final 30 games, including the final five.

“I just tried to do what I need to do,” Bourn said. “I don’t really take it like that, being the missing piece. It’s a team game. One person can make a difference in a game, but you are going to win and lose as a team. When I got over here, I just kept doing what I was doing in Houston.”

Bourn hit .278 with a .321 on-base percentage for the Braves. As the rest of the team went through a September swoon, Bourn hit .271 with a .315 on-base percentage in 28 games in the month. But he is ready to put those failures behind.

“I think last year is over with,” Bourn said. “This is a totally different team. We got the same players, but it’s a totally different year. Last year, the Cardinals were hot at the time. They played good baseball. We went into a little rut.

“We can sit here and talk about it all day, but it’s over with. You’ve got to be able to move forward. If you linger on it, of course, it’s going to affect you. I don’t even think about it. After the season is over, I reflected on it for a little bit, and that was it.”

As for the 2012 season, Bourn mentions the Braves’ offense, defense and pitching as reasons the team will be among the National League contenders. His ability to manufacture runs with his speed and put pressure on the opposing pitcher is part of the formula.

“Put all three of them together, and we’ll be able to give some people stuff to think about,” Bourn said.

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