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Braves' Michael Bourn sees worthy challenger in Dodgers' Dee Gordon

Outfielder, the National League leader in stolen bases the last three years, believes the young shortstop could give him a run for the title.

April 25, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers baserunner Dee Gordon, right, beats the tag by Atlanta's Dan Uggla to steal second base during the third inning of Wednesday's game.
Dodgers baserunner Dee Gordon, right, beats the tag by Atlanta's… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Atlanta Braves outfielder Michael Bourn has led the National League in steals in each of the last three seasons.

One of these years, Bourn said, Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon will take his crown.

"I know eventually he will," Bourn said. "He has the young legs over there. But he's going to have a battle taking it from me."

Bourn laughed.

Entering the series finale between the Dodgers and Braves on Wednesday, the 24-year-old Gordon was tied with Emilio Bonifacio of the Miami Marlins for the major league lead in steals with nine. Bourn was tied for third with seven.

Gordon stole his 10th base in the third inning Wednesday.

"We're going to battle it out, man," Bourn said. "He's going to give me a run for my money. I can tell already. But that's how it's supposed to be."

Bourn has known Gordon since Gordon was a teenager. When Bourn broke into the big leagues with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2006, one of his teammates was Gordon's father, pitcher Tom Gordon.

Bourn recalled how the elder Gordon would tell him to watch his son take infield practice.

Until Bourn was traded to the Houston Astros after the 2007 season, he learned the finer points of base stealing from Davey Lopes, the Dodgers' present first base coach. Bourn thinks Gordon should benefit from Lopes' presence.

"He has a knowledge like Einstein in what he was doing, for base stealing," Bourn said. "He can communicate it so well to you. He can talk to you for like 10 minutes and you'll get what he's saying."

Gordon didn't start playing baseball until his late teens and his inexperience has shown at times. Through Tuesday, he had been caught stealing four times and was batting .239.

Gordon reminds Bourn of himself.

"I was the same way he was," Bourn said. "As long as he plays a lot and they let him play all the time, I'm telling you, they have a special player in him."

Lopes also sees similarities.

"Outstanding speed," Lopes said. "They're both very aggressive."

But who is faster?

"I don't know," Lopes said. "But when I first saw Michael, I would've said he would've been tough to beat."

Gordon diplomatically sidestepped the same question.

"I'm not going there," Gordon said, smiling.

Bourn said he didn't know who would win a footrace.

"But he's fast, boy," Bourn said. "That man is fast. I know speed when I see it and he's got it. He's got that top-notch speed."

Juan Rivera, Aaron Harang are improving

Left fielder Juan Rivera and starting pitcher Aaron Harang downplayed concerns about the slight injuries they suffered Tuesday night.

Rivera strained his left hamstring running down the first base line, but Manager Don Mattingly said it was less severe than trainer Sue Falsone initially thought.

"They'll give me like two, three days," Rivera said.

Harang fouled a ball off his left foot, leaving an ugly bruise. X-rays were negative and Harang expects to throw his scheduled bullpen session Friday.

Short hops

The Dodgers are working on finding a way to let fans get autographs before games, a team spokesman said. The club found a temporary solution Wednesday, allowing fans to form a line down an aisle that runs alongside the home dugout. Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen signed for about three minutes. Third base coach Tim Wallach was also there for a few minutes. Clayton Kershaw dropped by for about a minute. A group that included three children didn't reach the front of the line to get autographs from any of them, but hitting coach Dave Hansen came by. … Nathan Eovaldi started for double-A Chattanooga but was pulled after one inning. Mattingly said Eovaldi won't be replacing anyone in the major league rotation but indicated he could be taking someone's spot in the bullpen.

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