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Bourgeois making a name for himself

Bourgeois making a name for himself

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The last name is forgettable or, if not that, not easy to say. For how do you pronounce "Bourgeois" anyway?

Bench coach Joey Cora mangled the pronunciation of the name when he tried. But Cora had no trouble with saying what he thought about the player behind that last name.

"He's making a name for himself," Cora said of Jason Bourgeois. "A kind of a difficult name, but he's making one."

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That's the consensus among White Sox coaches. They've seen enough of the 26-year-old Bourgeois -- pronounced bu̇rzh-wä or fairly close to it -- this Spring Training to take a much harder look at the non-roster invitee.

"What he's doing right now is similar to what [Pablo] Ozuna did in '05," Cora said.

No need to recount in detail what Ozuna did that 2005 season, the year the White Sox went from nowhere to the top of the baseball world. But Ozuna, a player who handled several roles, played with energy and ignited the offense time and again.

His role as the ever-ready utility player was indispensable to the team's success that championship season.

In camp this spring, Bourgeois has shown he might be able to replicate Ozuna's performance. If he can, he'll have bought himself a ticket to the big leagues. He might be on his way.

"No matter where they need me, I'll be there," he said.

His upbeat attitude and spirited play have helped Bourgeois catch everybody's attention. People are talking about him, even if his last name doesn't roll off their tongues easily. The coaches have had no choice but to learn the pronunciation of his last name as they give him more and more playing time.

"Being a non-roster invitee, you might not get much playing time," he said Monday. "But, you know, I'm very happy with the playing time I've been getting. I've had a couple of starts, and I've been in almost every game I've attended."

Coming into camp, he had an idea of what to expect. He also knew what he needed to do to keep his name on people's minds. He'd bounced around the Minors since the Rangers drafted him in the second round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft.

Along the way, he hadn't been able to put all the pieces together. Teams liked his tools, but those tools needed to translate into more impressive numbers. To produce those numbers, Bourgeois needed to understand his game better.

He needed to figure out what he did well and what he didn't, he said. He needed the list of what he did well to be longer than the list of what he didn't do well. So at the heart of his self-evaluation was the realization he needed to rely on his speed and his versatility more.

That realization came, he said, when the Mariners plucked him from the Rangers farm system in the Rule 5 Draft in the winter of 2005. For the first time, he had to play his way onto a roster. That didn't work out well for Bourgeois, who called the Seattle experience frustrating.

Bourgeois didn't, however, call it discouraging.

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"I really had to figure out, 'Hey, you know what, this is something I can still do,' " he said. "I figured out my game and really believed in myself last year."

He split that last season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, where he hit .311 with 18 doubles and three triples in 84 games.

In Spring Training, he's continued that solid play, which is why people are paying attention to the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Texan. Bourgeois has been one of the surprises of camp -- at least to people other than himself.

"I prepared for this moment ever since I've been playing," he said. "I've been waiting the whole offseason to come to camp. I've been thinking about last year and about not changing a thing but just bringing it into this year."

He seems to have done just that this spring.

"He can obviously run; he can play all over the place," Cora said of Bourgeois. "He's making us notice him, and that's probably what he wants to do."

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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