Peter Bourjos admits the past few seasons have been a tough pill to swallow.
The 29-year-old went from being an apparent building block in Anaheim (who led the American League in triples and finished fifth among AL center fielders with seven assists) to struggling to find playing time in St. Louis.
A change of scenery was needed, and that’s how he landed in Philadelphia this offseason.
Did he expect to be an everyday starter from day one?
“I didn’t know,” Bourjos said. “You just want to come in and win playing time in spring training and go from there. Obviously the last two years I haven’t played a whole lot. You just got to earn your at bats and hope you play well enough to stick and have them keep putting you out there.”
Through 40 games, Bourjos has started 37 times in right field and started Wednesday afternoon in center.That makes coming to the ballpark a much more enjoyable time.
“It gives you some peace of mind,” Bourjos said. “That’s something I haven’t had in a long time. Not that you forget what that’s like, but in a sense you kind of do because my role has changed the last three years where you don’t come to the field expecting to be in the lineup.”
His defensive ability has made him a stalwart in the Phillies lineup, but his bat was lagging behind early on. Since the start of May, though, Bourjos has upped his average over .200 after hitting an unimpressive .164 in April. He has a .268 average in 15 games this month.
Since the current homestand began, he’s batting .400.
“I think the swing is staying in the zone a little bit longer,” Bourjos said. “Somedays it’s been there and some days it hasn’t. I think it’s slowly going in the direction … if I can get going in that direction than the average will start coming up.”
Part of the reason for his slow start to the season was his new position. He spent his whole career playing center field until the Phillies opted to move him to right field. Bourjos says the transition is coming along quicker now that he’s understanding the “angles and the walls” better.
“The more I play, the more comfortable I’m getting,” Bourjos said.
The outfield has really taken shape with Tyler Goeddel starting to find his rhythm and Odubel Herrera becoming one of the more reliable hitters in the National League. Between the three starters, though, Bourjos is the most experienced of the trio. He’s five years older than Herrera and has six years on Goeddel.
He remembers when he came into the league and guys like Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells took him under their wing in Anaheim. He hopes to do the same for his new running mates.
“I just try to help them out with anything I see,” Bourjos said. “As a game goes, if you see something you try to help them out and pass that information along.”
A few weeks back during Bourjos’ struggles, Pete Mackanin sat in his office and said that he expects Bourjos to get his average up around .240. With the approach he’s having and the “peace of mind” he finally has, there’s a good shot he’ll hit that mark and do what he does best: use his speed.
“It’s something that if I can get on base — whether it’s a walk or a hard ground ball — and continue to get on base, I can really help the team.”