Justin Bour takes lessons learned from Ichiro, others into new role with Phillies

SAN DIEGO — Justin Bour boarded a 5 a.m. flight in Miami for a cross-country flight to San Diego on Saturday morning.

Yeah, it made for a long day but it was well worth it for a journey to first place.

“This is why you play the game of baseball,” the newest Phillie said upon arriving in the clubhouse before Saturday night’s game against the Padres. “You play the game of baseball for these last couple months where you’re making a playoff push and you’re playing meaningful games. It’s definitely a change of pace that I’m very much looking forward to.”

The Phillies acquired Bour, a 30-year-old, left-handed power hitter, from the Miami Marlins for minor-league pitcher McKenzie Mills on Friday.

Bour hit .227 with 19 homers, 54 RBIs and a .759 OPS for Miami this season. Four of those homers came against the Phillies. Last season, he hit .289 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs.

Bour had been a regular in Miami, but the Phillies will use him as a “weapon” off the bench, to use manager Gabe Kapler’s description (see story).

That’s OK with Bour, who went from 23 games under .500 and last place in the NL East to first place in the division with the trade.

“I’m excited to be here,” Bour said. “There’s a great vibe here.

“They’ve been great communicating with me, letting me know what my role is. All I want to do is come in and help the team win, if that’s as a bench guy or playing here and there, whatever the team needs to win, I’m all in on that.”

Bour has a pretty good idea of how a pinch-hitter should operate. He is 14 for 56 (.250) with five homers, 17 RBIs, 10 walks and a .894 OPS in his career as a pinch-hitter. He’s also watched former teammates like Ichiro Suzuki and Jeff Mathis handle the role.

“I’ve learned from some greats,” Bour said. “You can’t compare yourself to Ichiro, but I sort of watched how he continually moved, continually was stretching, stuff like that. 

“I’d say the best piece of advice I got was from Jeff Mathis. He taught me to watch the game, see what was going on, think ahead of the bench coach, think ahead of those guys, always be ready and never find yourself in a situation where you’re being ambushed, and always be ready to go.

“I’m excited to help out any way I can.”

Bour has put up some big numbers in his career against the NL East, and that did not go unnoticed by the Phillies front office when it claimed Bour on waivers and pursued a deal.

Against Atlanta, he has a .302 batting average, 13 homers, 42 RBIs and a 1.023 OPS. Against the Mets, he has a .276 batting average, 9 homers, 29 RBIs and a .870 OPS. Against Washington, he has a .232 batting average with 11 homers, 37 RBIs and a .745 OPS.

The Phillies have 10 games remaining against the Mets, nine against the Nationals and seven against Atlanta.

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