A's take measures to slow opponents' running game

A's take measures to slow opponents' running game

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's inability to control their opponents' running game haunted them too often last season, and no time more so than in their final game, displayed under the microscope of a national audience.

The Royals stole a postseason-record seven bases under Oakland's watch in the American League Wild Card Game, a 12-inning escapade the A's lost, 9-8. It was the continuation of an ugly regular-season trend they're ready to halt this spring.

Oakland allowed 100 stolen bases in 2014, tied for fourth-most in the AL, and caught just 22 percent of attempted basestealers, the third-worst total in the league.

"When you're deficient in an area, it's my job to make sure we concentrate on that," A's manager Bob Melvin said Monday. "It's something that we're paying particularly close attention to, and once we get into games, it will remain that way."

The A's have an extra hand to help the process this year. During the offseason they added Marcus Jensen to their coaching staff as an assistant hitting coach and catching instructor, and it's in the latter role he's helping a group of backstops understand what they can do on their end to alleviate this issue.

"A lot of times," he said, "what ends up happening, you'll recognize there's a guy that's fast on the bases and you'll try to do more than you're capable of, and as a result of that you'll rush your throw and make a poor throw, which compounds the problem."

The A's do have several above-average arms among their catchers in camp, including Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley, and the responsibility doesn't fall solely with the men behind the plate.

A's pitchers are beginning each workout with "game awareness" drills, specifically aimed at managing the running game.

"It starts with the pitcher's delivery and time to home plate, and then us being able to make a good, solid throw on the bag, not try to make up for time, not try to be too quick and obviously know who are the threats and be able to contain the ones that we should be able to have a high percentage of throwing out," said Jensen. "The burners are going to get their bases. It's the other guys we need to contain."

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