SARASOTA, Fla. - Buck Showalter likes to say a player should “bring what he can bring” to the team. By that, he means do the things you do well and don’t try to be someone you are not on the field.
One thing new Orioles infielder Alexi Casilla brings to this team is the ability to steal bases. That could be a nice addition to an Orioles team that ranked last in the American League in steals last season with 58 and tied for last with just a 67 percent success rate on the bases.
The 28-year-old Casilla, who the Orioles picked up on waivers from Minnesota Nov. 2, succeeded on 21 of 22 attempts last year to rank second in the majors in stolen base percentage. He is 36-for-40 over the last two seasons for a 90 percent success rate. Last season’s AL leader in steals, the Angels’ Mike Trout, stole 49 last year on a 91 percent success rate.
So what makes Casilla effective at stealing bases?
“There are a lot of things,” he said. “You need to have a lot of information about the pitcher and catcher. If you can pick up the signs from the catcher. There are so many things that can make you successful. You don’t need to have speed to steal a base. You just have to be smart. You need to know when to go and when to stay. Depending on the pitcher, you need to know his time and if you can get a good jump.”
Casilla said he got an early education as a pro in the art of the steal and he stole 49 bags in the minors in 2005 and 50 the next season. He has stolen 71 of 80 in his big league career for an 89 percent success rate.
“I started doing it from my first professional year. That was back in 2003,” Casilla said. “I had signed with the Angels and they had an instructor that was teaching how to steal bases. I took mental notes and kept it in my mind. I practice it. You gain experience with a lot of attempts and become better over time.”
Casilla was the Twins’ opening day second baseman in Baltimore last April and hit .241 with one homer and 30 RBIs in 106 games with Minnesota. He knows right now he may start the season in a utility role with the Orioles. He said he is ready for that and talks like a guy happy to be an Oriole.
“Last year, these guys had a lot of fun going to the playoffs. I want to be part of that and have that experience,” Casilla said. “This is a fun group. I’m here to help. I know I probably won’t play every day. Brian (Roberts) is healthy and he’s going to play, but anytime the manager needs me, I’ll be there. We are going to try and put a lot of pressure on the pitcher this year. I like to play with a lot of energy.
“I’m just so happy to be here with the Orioles. As long as you have a uniform on, you feel proud. It doesn’t matter if you are playing every day. Having this uniform on makes me feel so proud.”