Putting the brakes on theft
How bad were the Red Sox at controlling the running game last year? Very bad. They gave up 151 stolen bases, 19 more than any other team in the Majors. Opponents were safe against the Red Sox in 90.4 percent of stolen base attempts, another league high.
It is something the Red Sox are seriously trying to correct this spring, as manager Terry Francona points out that there has been extra time spent in early drills on pitchers holding runners.
“Well, our first two days have been on picks. Both days.,” Francona said. “There’s a fine line there, where you’re trying to do things correctly, but you’re not doing it at the expense of something else. There are going to be times when Pap comes in and gives up a stolen base. He’s a closer, there’s times you need to execute a pitch as opposed to giving up a two-run homer. We always feel that way. At the same time, we didn’t do a good enough job. So we need to improve. You always evaluate what you’ve done and not done in the offseason and try to do it better. That’s certainly an area we want to improve on.”
Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez took a lot of blame for all the steals, but the first line of defense is from the pitchers varying times and making good moves to the plate.
Martinez, pictured below by Brita Meng Outzen, said Thursday that he understands how it can be difficult for pitchers to hold runners, and if people want to blame him, he’ll be glad to be held accountable.
bviously that’s another big part of the game, but at the same time, everybody has to know that the pitchers have a really tough job. They have to worry about making a pitch, throwing it in a location. Thinking about making a quality pitch, plus on top of that, controlling the running game. that’s a lot. The last thing you want is for a pitcher to think too much on the mound. As a catcher, you want them to worry about just being focused on the hitters.”
“You know what, I take the blame,” Martinez said. “I don’t mind. Our job is to make things easier for the pitcher. It’s 162 games. You want to be perfect but you’re not. The pitchers have a really tough job to do. There’s always room to improve and always room to get better. We’ll see what happens. We have a great pitching staff.”
Some other nuggets from the day: Third baseman Adrian Beltre rolled his ankle on Wednesday and was limited during Thursday’s workout. The injury is not belived to be serious in any way, shape or form.
“He stepped on a ball… he actually kind of twisted his ankle,” Francona said. “He went through all his stuff yesterday and extra. Today, we decided to tell him, go in the cage, he did some running in the cage and hitting. I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t back out there tomorrow.”
Thursday marked the first day pitchers threw live BP. It was the relievers’ day to throw, so Jonathan Papelbon, Manny Delcarmen and Daniel Bard were among those who faced hitters.
Bard looked particularly dominant.
“John Farrell said he was explosive, used all three pitches, used a good changeup – he’s really trying to throw his changeup, get a feel for that, let it be a weapon, especially against left handers, and it sounds like he had a real good day,” Francona said.
And Papelbon was uninhibited by a sore back that troubled him earlier in the week.
“I agree with that, there wasn’t a lot of effort when the ball came out of his hand,” Francona said. “You’re always looking for positives. But it was nice to watch him throw, and not have a lot of effort.”
The Red Sox will take the field a half hour earlier than normal on Friday because of their annual Spring Training golf tournament for charity. They will come out at 9 instead of 9:30.