Padres ready to run, regardless of speed

Padres ready to run, regardless of speed

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dave Roberts, who is in camp this spring as a special assistant to work with baserunners, said recently just how nice it is to have so many athletes to work with.

In case you're wondering, he's talking about 42-year-old Matt Stairs and 270-pound Kyle Blanks, two players who would much rather round the bases in a leisurely trot than a mad dash.

In Roberts' eyes, Stairs and Blanks are treated no differently than anyone else as the team continues to push their aggressive baserunning initiative this spring.

It's anyone, anytime and anywhere with these Padres. No matter shape or size.

"The only way I get a stolen base is because they forget about me and think I'm not going to run," Stairs said, joking. "But I don't mind running. They have said they want us to be aggressive on the bases. If you can get two or three runs stealing bases, it's going to help in the long run."

Going into Sunday's game against the Rangers, the Padres had the most stolen bases (28) in the Major Leagues. The Minnesota Twins were second with 24.

It's not just players with the speed skill set, Tony Gwynn and Everth Cabrera, who have been encouraged to run. It's everyone.

Blanks has two stolen bases and two triples, the later the result of being aggressive on the bases and, in his case, not merely settling for a double. Stairs has a steal, too. He's one of 12 players who have stolen bases.

"It's a matter of getting the fundamentals down so that it's not so much about your speed as it is your instincts," Padres right fielder Will Venable said. "We're working on the little things that can help us be a little quicker.

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"You don't have to be Luis Durango [a speedy Minor League outfielder in camp] to steal a bag. You saw Kyle steal a bag. Then he got [Dodgers pitcher Vicente] Padilla thinking about him and he throws the ball away. It's not just the speed guys."

Stolen bases are just one facet of what Roberts and Padres first-base coach Rick Renteria are trying to convey to baserunners, with the blessing of manager Bud Black and general manager Jed Hoyer.

They're encouraging bigger leads at first base and trying to take aggressive turns on base hits. Mostly, they're encouraging anything that will disrupt the pitcher and opposing defense.

"Anytime you can hurry up the opposition and force them to make a quick decision ... trying to stretch that extra base, you force people to make those extra throws they don't want to make," Blanks said. "That's when there are errors.

"Doing those little things, it's a different kind of feeling because you're setting you team up for success, you're giving your team an extra chance to score. It's just more of a team play instead of hitting a home run. You're setting the table."

So far, Roberts has been pleased with the progress the Padres have made, taking in all of the information he and Renteria have preached.

"We're very excited. We're creating scoring opportunities," Roberts said. "There's a lot of energy, we're running the bases aggressively, not just stealing bases but taking aggressive leads, forcing errant throws.

"It's something we as an organization are trying to impose on guys. They are buying into it. I think the mindset is starting to change."

Even those of the players who might not normally steal bases or take chances with a big lead or trying to take an extra base.

"I usually get a pretty good push off second, so it isn't too bad," Blanks said when asked if that trot from home plate to third base gets tiring. "But there's been times when the gas tank gets pretty low and it's tough. For the most part, I do OK."

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