Base stealers force O's catchers to adjust

There are many things fans don't get to see around the ballpark on a day-to-day basis. One is the players who take the field early before batting practice to get extra fielding work in.

Lately I've seen bench coach and former catcher Jeff Datz out early to work with Matt Wieters and Craig Tatum. All three have really clocked some hours working on defense behind the plate. They practice blocking balls in the dirt and also throwing runners out on base.

Tuesday night against the A's, you would have thought all that work was in vain as Oakland runners stole four bases on Craig Tatum.

Juan Samuel later explained that Tatum didn't have a chance to throw those runners out because pitcher Brian Matusz and members of the bullpen did not do a good job of holding the ball and varying the timing of their holds so the baserunners would be unable to steal. Matusz was predictable and the A's took advantage of it.

It's part of the learning process for young pitchers. Sometimes they're so focused on the batter, they forget about the runners on base. It's an area Samuel said needs to improve.

As for the catchers, Datz told me he wants to see them hold runners better by not hesitating to attempt pickoffs at any of the bases. If a runner has a sizeable lead, he said Wieters and Tatum have to not be afraid to throw to the bag. Even if they don't get the out, it'll keep the runners honest.

Think about it, when was the last time you saw Wieters attempt a pickoff at second? Not very often.

Datz feels if the catchers become more of a threat in this manner, then opposing baserunners will think twice before running so freely on the O's. It could make a big difference against free running teams like the A's and Angels.