Bourjos schooled by his Gold Glove mates

Bourjos schooled by his Gold Glove mates

Bourjos schooled by his Gold Glove mates
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Often times, while flanked by a couple of former Gold Glove Award winners at his current position, Peter Bourjos finds himself in the ideal situation for a young center fielder.

Sometimes, though, it can be a little tough.

"We critique everything," Angels right fielder Torii Hunter said, with left fielder Vernon Wells letting out a big laugh right next to him. "Oh man, we eat him alive."

If you want to learn to be a great defensive center fielder, there's no better place than where Bourjos finds himself -- with Hunter (winner of nine straight Gold Gloves from 2001-09) on one side, and Wells (winner of three straight from 2004-06) on the other.

But Bourjos, now entering his second full season in the big leagues, is already one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball.

So, Hunter has something else he's working on.

"He walks wrong," he said of Bourjos. "It's all wrong."

"Yeah, I know, I'm still working on that," Bourjos admitted. "That's really what they want me to get better at is my swagger more than anything."

But swagger is something you either have or you don't; not really something you can teach. Right?

"Yeah, but he's going to get it," Hunter said. "That's my project right now, to definitely give him that swag, because you get a lot of points just for looking good."

The Angels' outfield trio is definitely entitled to some collective swagger, because together, the three of them are about as good as it gets defensively.

And worlds better than what the Angels had in 2010, with an aging Bobby Abreu in right, a slower Hunter in center and a rather immobile Juan Rivera in left.

By August that season, the Angels figured something had to change, especially with the lightning-fast Bourjos waiting in the wings. So Hunter and manager Mike Scioscia had a talk, with Hunter agreeing to move to right field -- because the Angels would be better for it and, as an additional caveat, it could help prolong his career.

"I gave it up," Hunter said. "Simple as that. And I didn't want [Bourjos] to feel like there was some tension there. There was no tension there. That's what I decided."

And that, in turn, made it a whole lot easier on a guy like Bourjos, who was a 23-year-old rookie at the time and would've felt apprehensive about filling the awfully big shoes of his predecessor.

"I didn't know how he was going to handle it," Bourjos said, "and it was kind of nerve-wracking."

But as soon as Hunter walked into the clubhouse in Baltimore on Aug. 3, 2010, the day of Bourjos' big league debut, he approached the club's new center fielder and set him straight.

"I was nervous, obviously, being in the big leagues," Bourjos said. "But I didn't have that aspect of dealing with a veteran guy, taking his job and him being upset with me."

"It was tough. Yeah, of course," Hunter said of giving up his long-time position. "I mean, I played center field forever, and then I'm a man, so we have a little pride. But sometimes you have to swallow that, just for the team, to try to make it better. And that's what I did."

Hunter is one of the most intuitive players in baseball, so now he constantly nitpicks Bourjos -- whether he broke on a ball wrong, or took a bad route, or positioned his body the wrong way when banging up against the wall.

Bourjos' eagerness to learn has made it a whole lot easier.

"One thing about him, he asks questions," Hunter said. "So if he asks a question, I'm going to give it to him. I give it to him straight. He asks Vernon questions in center field, too. You have two pretty good center fielders out there in his ear, and trust me, if he does something wrong, we will let him know."

Now if they can just help him out with that swagger.

"That can be contagious," Hunter pointed out. "You can be born with it, but at the same time, you can kind of pass it off if they're willing to work with it. I just want to give him a little bit. More than what he has."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.