Bourn's playing time to increase

Bourn's playing time to increase

HOUSTON -- Michael Bourn has struggled at the plate since his return to the lineup, and he said he still is recuperating his sore right ankle.

The center fielder sprained the ankle sliding into second base on July 28, and he said he isn't back to 100 percent following the injury, which occurred while trying to break up a double play.

Despite batting .174 over the last 30 days, including a .158 (3-for-19) mark in his last 10 games, Astros manager Cecil Cooper plans to give Bourn the majority of the playing time in center field in September.

"I've been hoping this next month he'll be able to do more out there," Cooper said. "Once we get into September, maybe a week or so in and kind of see where we are as a team, I think he'll get the bulk of the playing time."

Cooper said part of Bourn's problem has been the lack of playing time he's seen. Bourn has played in 114 games this season and has been removed from the lineup a few times for performance-based reasons.

Darin Erstad, a more consistent veteran, often has taken Bourn's place in the lineup and in center field.

"What we look for is consistency from a young player," Cooper said. "I know defensively he's been pretty good in the outfield. [He] hasn't had any problems and made some good plays. He's continually making adjustments there. I just want to see the hitting part of it continue to be more consistent -- hitting balls in left field like he did last night, making better contact and his approach at the plate."

That defensive prowess showed itself in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Reds, when Bourn made two fantastic plays at Tal's Hill to take away hits.

The first was an over-the-shoulder grab Bourn made look simple, just reaching the hill as the play was made.

Bourn said he made the difficult plays as if they were routine.

"I'm thinking I have it all the way," Bourn said. "I don't want to think that I don't have it. I put it in my mind that I got it."

But the healing process with Bourn's ankle is ongoing. Cooper said Bourn finally was performing up to his expectations just before he was sidelined.

"He worked really hard on trying to hit the ball the other way, and we continued to do some work on the baserunning part of it, getting better leads and jumps," Cooper said. "We were starting to make progress when he had the injury."

Krysten Oliphant is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.