GOODYEAR, Ariz.: The Indians suddenly have become a team with frightening speed on the bases.
Newcomers Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs were among the top 10 base stealers in the National League last season, and Jason Kipnis was among the American League’s top 10 thieves.
Together, the three players stole 103 bases in 2012 with Bourn the holder of three NL base-stealing titles (2009-2011). Last season, Bourn fell to second place, when he stole 42 bases for the Atlanta Braves and was outdone by Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres, who amassed 44 steals in a 48 attempts for an astonishing success rate of 92 percent.
Some managers will say players must succeed 70 percent of the time to make the weapon worthwhile. Others say 75 percent. Regardless, Stubbs, Bourn and Kipnis have performed well above par.
Bourn was successful 76 percent of the time in 2012; Kipnis had an 82 percent success rate, and Stubbs came in at 81 percent.
When Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox, the offense was based mostly on the idea of hitting doubles in the gaps or launching drives over the wall. But he has no trouble adapting.
“It looks like one of our strengths is stealing bases,” Francona said. “But it’s more than the number of steals, it’s the percentage of successful steals. I don’t like to give away outs, but when you run as much as we will, you’re going to have some guys thrown out.”
General Manager Chris Antonetti views base stealing as one more weapon.
“When I look at our ability to score runs, we won’t rely on any one facet,” he said. “We have flexibility on the roster to match up and score runs in a variety of ways.”
Bourn hasn’t discussed base stealing with Francona yet but said, “I’m pretty sure he’ll let me run.”
That’s a pretty good bet.
Friday was the Indians’ first full-squad workout, and Francona was pleased with the results.
“It’s easy the first day,” he said. “The idea is to match it every day. You want that same energy every day.”
Quote of the day
In assessing the Tribe’s offseason moves, Francona said, “If you’re a Cleveland Indians fan and you didn’t like this winter, you’re probably going to be mad at anything.”
Francona addressed the players before the workout to focus everyone’s attention on the goals of the club.
“We want to respect the game and ourselves,” Francona said. “We’re trying play and practice it better than the other team and make sure that everybody is on the same page.”
All in the family
Former Tribe All-Stars Carlos Baerga and Kenny Lofton are in camp to help tutor players.
Baerga was asked to manage Santurce in the Puerto Rican winter league and ended up being manager of the year. He will try it again this fall.
As one of the coaches of Team Puerto Rico, he will leave the Tribe on March 2 and head for three days of workouts preceding the World Baseball Classic, but he will return to Goodyear when Puerto Rico ends its tournament run.
Long term, Baerga wants to work for the Indians, schooling and scouting young players in Latin America.
Nick Swisher left camp to attend his mother’s funeral in Columbus. He is expected to return tonight or Sunday.
“I told him it was up to him,” Francona said. “Just let me know.”
To make room for Bourn on the 40-man roster, Josh Tomlin was moved to the 60-day disabled list.
Tomlin, who underwent elbow reconstruction surgery last year, is throwing from 75 feet on flat ground. He will continue this progression to 120 feet then begin throwing off a mound (probably in about six weeks). However, he is not expected to return to the big leagues until late in the season, if then.