Starting pitchers Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook and C.C. Sabathia all had double-digit steals totals logged against them in '06. Runners stole 18 bases with Byrd on the mound, getting caught five times; they stole 16 against Westbrook, with three caught; and they stole 14 against Sabathia, with five caught.Before he was booted off the club in June, Jason Johnson also had trouble keeping his eye on the running game. He allowed 13 stolen bases in 77 innings pitched with the Tribe. In contrast, Cliff Lee pitched 200 2/3 innings and allowed only seven steals, with three runners caught and two picked off. As far as relievers are concerned, Fernando Cabrera (11 steals allowed, six runners caught) and Fausto Carmona (10 steals allowed, two caught) were the two biggest offenders when it came to attempts at stopping the run. To limit the big stolen-base numbers from popping up, a pitcher can try to throw off a runner's timing by varying his looks to the bag or mixing up the amount of time he takes between pitches. "There's so much focus on delivering the ball to home plate," Wedge said. "But prior to that, there are certain things you need to do before you make that decision. If you're holding the ball for 1 1/2 seconds on the mound, I guarantee you it feels like 10 seconds." It feels that way to both the runner and the pitcher. That's why pitchers must draw a fine line between messing with the minds of opposing runners and messing up their own routines. For the Indians pitchers, that's still a work in progress, as the statistics indicate. But Wedge and Willis both believe that the work being done in camp can and will go a long way to improving the Tribe's performance in this area. Because, while preventing the run might not be a regular part of a pitcher's routine in the early stages of his baseball career, the big leagues tend to force the issue. "It has to be a given," Wedge said. "We need to get that in our back pocket and get that taken care of. The more [the pitchers] can do it on their own and make it a learned trait, over time, the more comfortable they're going to be with it."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.