Kiermaier aiming to take next step as base stealer

Gold Glove winner believes 40-50 steals possible

Kiermaier aiming to take next step as base stealer

ARLINGTON -- Kevin Kiermaier might be the best fielder in baseball, and you can take the might out of the equation if you ask his manager, Kevin Cash, who thinks he is the best at any position.

Now the Rays' center fielder's skill set is expanding to the offensive side, as well. Included in this year's progression was Kiermaier's fledgling skills as a basestealer.

Kiermaier was not in the lineup for the final game of the season after getting hit with a pitch on his left calf, leaving him with a contusion that makes running an exercies in pain. Thus, he won't be stealing any bases on Sunday, which leaves him with 21 stolen bases on the season.

The speedy Kiermaier was thrown out just three times this season in 105 games, leaving him with an 87.5 percent success rate and creating the idea he can do more. Like 40 or 50 steals in a season, numbers he feels he can reach.

"Yeah, I do [believe he can steal 40 or 50]," Kiermaier said. "The term I always use with that is you have to steal first [base] first. You have to get on base, first and foremost. I tip my hat to the guys who hold on runners really well and who are quick to the plate because all catchers in the Major Leagues throw pretty much above average to exceptional. And it's really hard to steal on some guys, and that's when you have to shut it down.

"But I know I'm capable of that. I never set a number goal, but after this year getting whatever, it's just one of those things where if I keep getting on base and stealing second, that's something I'm real comfortable with."

Kiermaier swipes second base

Kiermaier said he's learned a lot about baserunning the past couple of years. He credited first base coach Rocco Baldelli for helping him make those strides.

"Baserunning is kind of like hitting as far as confidence goes," Kiermaier said. "I just felt like it was going to take a perfect throw to throw me out all year.

"Another huge part of it is Rocco, Rocco Baldelli. He sits there and prepares me and gives me so much information on starting pitchers, catchers, what their tendencies are, certain things like that. I can't thank him enough for what he's helped me to do. He gives me a different perspective on things."

Looking ahead, Kiermaier allowed that he would like to get better at stealing third base.

"That's the next step for me because I know I can do that as well," Kiermaier said. "I feel really comfortable stealing second, but stealing third, I pick my times to do that. And I'm a little more hesistant doing that. And I want to elevate my game by being able to do that, getting on third, less than two outs as soon as possible."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.