Phillies Notebook: Phillies limiting running game

Posted: March 25, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - This spring, the Phillies have showed signs of improvement in at least one area. Last year, they threw out only 35 of 149 attempted base-stealers, a 23 percent success rate that was lower than every National League team except the Nationals. This spring, they have thrown out 14 of 24 would-be base-stealers, the best rate in the majors.

"We didn't do a good job of that last year, and a lot of it is on the pitchers," said righthander Kyle Kendrick, who yesterday allowed one run in six innings against the Twins in a game that featured Carlos Ruiz throwing out Pedro Florimon at second base. "You've got to hold the ball, change your looks. You've got to give the catcher a chance to throw guys out. We didn't do that very good at all last year, so we've been working on that a lot this spring training. It can really help us."

Teams did not shy from their running game against the Phillies last year. The 149 attempts against them were tied with the Cubs for second among NL teams. Opposing baserunners swiped third 22 times, most in the NL, with only five caught stealing. They were 92-for-121 attempting to steal second.

Manager Ryne Sandberg and pitching coach Bob McClure have emphasized the need for pitchers to vary the time they hold the ball before beginning their delivery in order to keep baserunners from getting good jumps.

Sandberg will do much of the work from the bench, relaying a "hold" or "throw over" signal to the catcher, who then passes it on to the pitcher.

Kendrick was good at limiting the running game last year. Baserunners did not often test Kendrick last year (they attempted 12 and were successful on 10). They attempted just five steals against Cliff Lee. But Cole Hamels allowed an NL-high 25 stolen bases, while opponents were 12-for-13 against Roy Halladay in just 62 innings. A.J. Burnett has long struggled to hold runners (he finished just behind Hamels with 22 steals and just two caught stealing last year with the Pirates).

"It's kind of tough to get a good jump when you don't know if he's going to hold it for 5 seconds or 1 second," Kendrick said. "Just change your looks. That's the main thing."

In 2012, opponents stole just 99 bases, with 56 caught stealing, for a 36 percent rate that ranked third in the NL, but the Phillies' rates in 2010 and '11 were in the bottom third of the league.

Offense

Jimmy Rollins hit his third home run of the spring and made a nifty diving stab in the field to highlight the Phillies' 5-1 win over the Twins. Outfielder Domonic Brown went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in his second game back from a weeklong absence with the flu.

Kendrick sharp

This was essentially Kyle Kendrick's dress rehearsal for his regular-season debut against the Rangers on April 2. He'll make one more appearance before the season starts, but it will feature a lighter workload. In holding the Twins to one run in six innings, he walked one and struck out six.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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