Yost: Royals 'opportunistic' basestealers

Yost: Royals 'opportunistic' basestealers

SEATTLE -- The Royals are off and running again.

The team that led the Major Leagues in stolen bases in 2013 and 2014 and was second in the American League last year, swiping 104 while getting caught only 34 times, is at it again. After stealing four bases in Friday night's 1-0 loss to the Mariners, the Royals have 18 stolen bases. That total was tied for second in the AL with Houston, two behind AL leader Boston's 20.

When asked if the Royals are trying to lead the league in stolen bases, Kansas City manager Ned Yost quickly answered, "We're not trying to do anything."

"We're an opportunistic basestealing team," Yost continued. "We just don't run to run. We run when we feel like the odds are in our favor that we're going to steal a base."

Yost said the league adjusted to the Royals last year. Pitchers worked on speeding up their deliveries to control the Royals' notorious running game, although Kansas City still maintained a high success percentage in comparison to the other teams that stole a lot of bases. That has continued early this year.

"We still pick our spots," Yost said. "We're not running just to run. We're good at it."

One of the reasons, as Yost has always made sure to mention, is the preparation of Rusty Kuntz, who Yost referred to aas "the best first-base coach in baseball." Kuntz, Yost said, "sets up all the homework and does all the work. We have a real good plan of attack."

Terrance Gore, who's on the Royals' roster primarily as a pinch-runner, agreed and said Kuntz's work has fostered an infectious culture when it comes to the stolen base.

"We always talk about, 'How many bases you got? How many did you steal?'" Gore said. "And I think it makes you want to steal. Because you don't have to be the fastest guy to steal bases. As long as you're smart with it, you'll be fine.

"Rusty is literally a genius. I'm not even kidding. When it comes to pitchers and keys and stuff like that, unbelievable."

RISP-y business as usual 

The Royals entered Saturday night's game against the Mariners in an 0-for-22 skid with runners in scoring position and, as a result, in a four-game losing streak. It's a stark departure from the team that hit .281 with RISP last year and won the World Series.

But Yost once again showed no concern whatsoever about the recent funk, and said he hasn't even been seeing particularly poor performances in the batter's box from his hitters.

"They'll have an at-bat every once in a while where you're like, 'What was he thinking?', but they're pretty rare," he said.

Gore staying ready 

Gore knows his legs are what's keeping him on the Royals' roster, and for good reason. He has six career plate appearances over three seasons and a total of nine stolen bases.

But he still yearns to improve as a player and keeps ready as if he could be called upon to hit at any moment.

"I'm always in the batting cages, playing catch," Gore said. "Just playing baseball like I've been doing since I was 5 years old. I'm trying to keep the speed but improve my game in other ways. A lot of early work, a lot of machine work. … Ground balls. Anything to make me better."

Yost said he doesn't necessarily feel that Gore's development has been delayed or stifled because of his role on this team.

"It's about winning for us right now," Yost said. "We're out of the development mode. We got out of that two years ago, for the most part.

"That one tool that he has, his best tool, helps us win ballgames right now. So that's what we're looking to do."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com and covered the Royals on Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.