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David Brown

Hello, Bourjos: Angels rookie plays it fast on both sides of ball

David Brown
Big League Stew

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Peter Bourjos(notes) felt he could laugh a little bit about his first extra innings game as a major leaguer.

Having a sense of humor definitely helped in getting through the Los Angeles Angels' 4-3 victory in 16 innings against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night.

The season's final installment of "Angels in the Outfield" vs. "Major Leagues I, II and III" lasted three minutes shy of five hours and required 506 combined pitches.

For both playoff non-contenders, it was the longest game of the season.

"After a while, you go, 'You gotta be kiddin' me.' After the ninth, there just weren't too many opportunities to score runs," Bourjos said. "We were just doing enough to keep the game going."

It lasted roughly three at-bats too many for Bourjos, who struck out in the 10th, 12th and 14th after connecting for his third home run of the season in the sixth.

"I think a lot of people would have been happy if we had won it in the ninth," Bourjos said with a laugh. "I know I would have been spared a couple of strikeouts."

Strikeouts are piling up for Bourjos, who has 25 in 106 plate appearances since making his big-league debut Aug. 3. But the 23-year-old's ability to get extra-base hits is encouraging.

If not able to reach the seats on a homer, the speedy Bourjos has a back-up plan:

The under-considered triple.

Despite suspecting that he struck his homer against Josh Tomlin(notes) well enough to clear the fence, Bourjos left the batter's box in an all-out sprint worthy of Oakland's Adam Rosales(notes).

"I wasn't sure, especially since it was hit to left-center," Bourjos said. "So I was like, ‘better get running,' so I could at least get a triple if it doesn't go out.

"I think I was coming into second base when I realized it went out; I heard the fireworks go off. I love hitting triples, but it's a nice feeling to say, 'OK, you can trot home.'"

Watch Bourjos go

Not too many ballplayers even bother thinking "triple," but Bourjos' exceptional speed makes him, well, an exception.

Bourjos has nine extra-base hits — including a pair of triples — out of 19 total for a .367 slugging percentage. If Bourjos could hit even .250 in the majors, he'd probably slug well above average.

While his .194 batting average isn't what he'd like to be hitting, especially after putting up .314/.364/.498 at Class AAA Salt Lake City, what Bourjos can contribute with his legs could make him a very valuable player on both sides. As has been noted, Bourjos was worth plus-76 runs over 360 games started in center field from 2006-2009.

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"I don't know how those stats are calculated or whatnot, but I take pride in not letting it fall out there," Bourjos said. "But it's nice to hear things like that when it's a good stat.

"My defense should should always be there," Bourjos continued. "That's what got me signed — I could really run down balls in center. My defense really comes first. If I'm not playing good defense, it's just not going to work for me."

Like any potentially great center fielder, Bourjos tries to play shallow as much as possible.

"That way, I feel I'm able to go back, using my speed," Bourjos said. "And on bloopers, I'm able to cut them off, if I'm a little shallow. That way, I'm also closer to throw guys out. Maybe if I'm closer and I charge hard, they won't run. Maybe [laughs]."

Baserunners have tested Bourjos so far, and he's come up big with eight assists in 253 defensive innings. Cleveland's Shin-Shoo Choo — who's been in the lineup most of the season — leads major league outfielders with 12 assists. Further, Bourjos made one error in 98 total chances and has showed impressive range.

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That's one of the reasons Torii Hunter(notes) (ready with the fist bump) conscientiously agreed to move to right field and make way for Bourjos after being asked by manager Mike Scioscia (left). Around the league, the likes of Rays left fielder Carl Crawford(notes) (who's reportedly on the Angels free-agent watchlist) have already taken notice of Bourjos.

Via MLB.com:

"He can really move," Crawford said [after a game in August]. "He made some great plays out there. I'd like to see him race [Brett] Gardner, [Jacoby] Ellsbury. I figure [Bourjos] can steal 50 bases. He looks like he can run about as good as any of those guys."

Something special could be happening in center for the Angels. And quickly.

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