Cubs plan on being threat to steal bases

Cubs plan on being threat to steal bases

Cubs plan on being threat to steal bases
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs aren't exactly a speed team, ranking next to last in the National League in stolen bases last season.

That may change.

"We can run," outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "It's about enforcing it now and getting comfortable on the bases. [First-base coach] Bobby Dernier is like, 'Hey, it's time to go guys, time to run.'"

That is Dernier's message to the team. Who knows, Aramis Ramirez could be stealing bases.

"They don't pay any attention to me, I know that for a fact," Ramirez said. "We'll see what happens during the season."

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"More than anything, we want to be a threat to run," Dernier said. "We want to steal at a high percentage. Seventy-five percent is nice. What it does is create an environment where if the pitcher has to split his attention just because we're a threat, it helps your teammates.

"So, if [Kosuke] Fukudome does it, it helps [Starlin] Castro, and if Castro does it, it helps Byrd, and if Byrd does it, it helps Ramy," Dernier said. "Ramy -- surprise attack. Maybe [Tyler] Colvin helps [Geovany] Soto or [Alfonso Soriano] helps Colvin or [Blake] DeWitt helps Fukudome. If we have that kind of personality, the personality of the team changes."

Ramirez has 15 career stolen bases and has been caught stealing 14 times. He was going to steal a couple times last year, but Soriano fouled the ball off, so Ramirez didn't run. He has asked manager Mike Quade if he has the green light.

"He's all fired up," Quade said about the third baseman. "He's ready to roll. I told him, 'Ask me April 1.' We'll leave that out of the mix right now this spring. I'm so happy with his approach this spring -- don't change a thing."

The Cubs are counting on Ramirez to drive in runs, not steal. On Saturday, Fukudome was on the run but was caught stealing in the third. He was successful in the fourth inning and advanced on an error.

"It'll be dictated as much by what they're giving us as us forcing the issue," Quade said. "A kid like [Fernando] Perez, he can force the issue, that's what he does. We're not blessed with a lot of those guys."

Perez is a legit threat to steal. But Byrd said the Cubs may surprise some people.

"[Quade] is going to let us run a little bit with all the athleticism we have on the team," Byrd said. "Fuky can run, I can run, Sori can run. We didn't show it last year, and now it's time to pick it up a little bit."

Jeff Baker can run. He's 8-for-8 in stolen base opportunities in the big leagues. Even 6-foot-5, 240-pound Bryan LaHair can run. He had three stolen bases last year and was caught once. His nickname? The Rabbit. Get it? La Hare.

"We won't be known for 150 stolen bases, that's not who we are right now," Dernier said. "But we can be known as a threat. If you don't do your work against us, we might get you.

"Any pitcher will tell you it creates that distraction just enough that they're not quite in their normal rhythm."

Quade will test guys this spring to see who can and can't run.

"We need to run intelligently," he said. "We fooled around and did some things [Saturday] just to get some guys going because we haven't done much of that. It's definitely something we want to look into. We don't have a bunch of fliers on this club, but we want to take advantage of situations."

Ramirez does not qualify as a flier.

"I can steal five or 10," Ramirez said. "I don't think you need to be a fast runner to steal bases. I don't think [Albert] Pujols is fast. He stole 15, 20 bags. Even [Yadier] Molina isn't fast."

Pujols swiped 14 last year, Molina eight. So, should we expect 15 stolen bases from Ramirez this year?

"I don't know if I'll make it that far," he said, laughing. "At least 15 tries."

The other reason Dernier wants to see the Cubs on the move?

"Hey -- it's fun," he said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.