WASHINGTON — Jose Reyes knows a little something about the art of stealing bases. The Mets’ all-time leader in steals with 403, he is working on transferring that knowledge to Amed Rosario, a successor to Reyes as the young, dynamic franchise shortstop of the present and future.
Rosario, 22, is one of the fastest — if not the fastest — shortstops in the majors. That hasn’t yet manifested itself in a prolific base-stealing way, but the Mets believe that part is coming.
“If you have that speed,” Reyes said, “you have to use it.”
Reyes did when he was in Rosario’s position. In 2005, his first full big-league season, Reyes, 22, led the National League in steals with 60. He followed that up by leading both leagues the next two years, swiping 64 and 78 bags, respectively.
Reyes said he and Rosario have spoken regularly about stealing bases, among other aspects of the game, since Rosario debuted last summer.
Among the lessons: Be aggressive.
“He cannot be afraid,” Reyes said. “When I started in the big leagues, I wasn’t thinking about how fast a pitcher is. Take a good lead, a good jump and go. I’m going to try to teach him the same way.”
Between the minors and the majors, Rosario last year totaled a career-high 26 stolen bases in 35 tries, a three-out-of-four success rate that serves as an approximate benchmark for true base-stealers. That included seven steals with three caught stealings in the majors.
This year, Rosario said his plan is to be “100 percent” aggressive on the bases.
“If God provides me with health, I’ll be able to steal a lot of bases,” he said through an interpreter.
Count manager Mickey Callaway among the believers in that possibility. But base-stealing is a skill that takes time to develop, just like hitting and fielding.
“Base-stealing is something that is an art and it takes time to build, unless you’re just clearly outrunning the baseball,” Callaway said. “Baserunning takes great leads, a lot of instinct, a lot of research on what the pitcher’s doing and what he’s not doing.
“He can be a huge threat. He’s obviously one of the faster guys, footspeed-wise, in the big leagues. So if he can really hone in on his skills to really steal bases and get better and better at it, he can be a perennial base-stealer if he wants.”
Said Rosario of Callaway’s vote of confidence: “It’s very important to me. That encourages me to go and steal a lot of bases.”
Rosario attempted only one steal through the first six games of this season — he was caught by the Phillies at second Wednesday — but other areas of his game have been strong. He was 6-for-19 (.316) with a .350 on-base percentage and .421 slugging percentage. He has impacted the game with his legs in other ways, such as when he scored from first on a double in Saturday’s 3-2 win.
All of Rosario’s five RBIs have come with two outs and from the No. 9 spot, hitting behind the pitcher, a new lineup home that Rosario said he feels comfortable with.
“It seems like he’s doing a really good job,” Callaway said. “There’s only been a few at-bats where it looks like he’s flying open and kind of flailing at the ball. He’s done a great job throughout spring training, toning things down, relaxing at the plate and not chasing pitches.”
Next comes the base-stealing.
“With the speed he has, he just needs to feel comfortable there,” Reyes said. “Take a big lead and go.”