Mariners focus on swiping more bases

Mariners focus on swiping more bases

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners' running game, which has been hit-and-miss this spring, was one of the focal points during pregame workouts on Sunday.

Through the first 17 Cactus League games, the Mariners were successful 11 times in 18 stolen-base attempts and, not surprisingly, were having a more difficult time reading left-handed pitchers' pickoff moves.

With an aggressive baserunning approach being stressed by manager John McLaren this spring, the runners need a better stolen-base success rate to make the philosophy work.

Except for Charlton Jimerson, who is 4-for-5 in stolen bases, the Mariners have been slow to get out of the blocks. Among the regulars, third baseman Adrian Beltre and left fielder Raul Ibanez are 1-for-1 and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt is 0-for-2.

Center fielder Ichiro Suzuki, the Mariners' stolen-base leader in each of his seven seasons with Seattle, hasn't attempted a theft this spring, and been picked off once.

Giants left-hander Barry Zito threw behind the unsuspecting Betancourt at first base during Saturday's game in Scottsdale and recorded the final out of the inning in a rundown.

"We're trying to do some things different, as far as baserunning," McLaren said during his morning media session. "We're putting in a new drill today; taking six of our left-handed pitchers and dividing them into Group 1 and Group 2; and taking six baserunners, dividing them into two groups, giving them some different looks."

The more pickoff moves the runner recognizes, the better chance he have of stealing a base.

"Sometimes, you get in trouble when your primary lead is too big and you're always on the defense, always leaning back the other way," McLaren said. "You've got to be smart about it. You've got to know what kind of move the pitcher has and you can't be over-aggressive with your primary lead.

"I don' think you should ever get picked off if you're not going, and we've had a couple guys picked off when they're not going."

Guest instructor Rich Amaral, who spent the second week of Spring Training working with the Mariners' best baserunners, returned late last week to work with the Minor League players. He spent Sunday morning with the Major Leaguers.

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"We're not going to throw the ball, but going to have the left-handers show their moves," McLaren said. "Richie will show the runners what he's looking for.

"There are risks when you run like this. We understand that. But I don't think we can be a station-to-station club. We've got to utilize the speed we have to the fullest. We don't want to take dumb chances. We want to take intelligent chances and be aggressive. There's a difference in reckless abandon and really focusing on the situation."

The baserunning station is just one of several new concepts being introduced during the next few days.

McLaren said the plan is to put in four stations: regular batting practice; a bunt station on the half-field to work on the squeeze and safety-squeeze bunt plays; a situational hitting station specializing in hit-and-run and runner on third; and a cage with a machine that throws curveballs.

"We're just trying to give some different drills here, spice it up a little bit and keep it moving forward," McLaren said. "Usually, things drag this time of year and we're trying to keep it fresh."

And use it to their advantage.

"We're trying to turn every rock over to see if we can find a different thought process for everybody," McLaren said. "One thing might work for one guy, and something else might work for another guy.

"We're trying to see what we've got. We have a pretty good idea who can run. We're going to start hit-and-running a little bit and we'll move some guys who maybe haven't hit-and-run before."

Jim Street is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.