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Mets' Amed Rosario puts renewed emphasis on stealing bases

Mets shortstop Amed Rosario during a workout at

Mets shortstop Amed Rosario during a workout at Citi Field in New York, Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Amed Rosario wants to steal more bases, and the Mets are trying to help him do that.

Heading into his fourth major-league season, Rosario, 24, has underwhelmed with his bag-swiping ability — especially for someone as fast as he is. But he is working with Tony DeFrancesco, the Mets’ baserunning coach, to study pitchers as well as his own running mechanics in an effort to get much better.

Rosario’s goal in a full season, according to DeFrancesco: 30 steals — at least.

He didn’t get any chances Saturday while going 1-for-4 with a ninth-inning triple in the Mets’ 9-3 exhibition loss to the Yankees, but he will get another opportunity Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.

“I can be,” Rosario said through an interpreter Saturday, “a dynamic player on the bases.”

That may well be true, but he hasn’t been yet. Rosario has 50 steals in 74 attempts in his career, a success rate of about 68%. Last year he had 19 steals and got caught 10 times, most in the majors.

Players considered so-called true base-stealers are safe about 75-80% of the time.

DeFrancesco chalked up Rosario’s mediocre thievery to a lack of confidence. As a young player — especially one who at times struggled at the plate and in the field — Rosario may have been afraid to go for it because he was afraid of getting in trouble in the event he got caught or picked off, DeFrancesco said.

Now, the Mets are trying to instill in Rosario confidence via preparedness. During baseball’s pandemic hiatus, they sent him video of himself (his leads, his jumps) and of opposing pitchers (their pickoff moves, their motions to the plate).

By studying the data — and knowing, for example, which pitchers have slower deliveries — Rosario will know better when it is smart to go. His speed, along with a specific focus on larger leads, will take care of the rest.

Manager Luis Rojas likened that routine, which the Mets expect to become a habit, to the offensive prep work Rosario did last year, which helped him be a significantly better hitter in the second half.

“We wanted to keep doing the same thing on the baserunning standpoint so he can prepare, he can anticipate and he can make his decision,” Rojas said. “That’s something we’re looking to see this season, for him to be more aggressive on the bases and put pressure on the opposing pitchers and catchers.”

DeFrancesco added: “If he does a little homework, who knows how high he can go? That’s one dimension that we really don’t have a lot of: speed.”

That is not an exaggeration. Rosario’s team-high 19 steals in 2019 were more than the next three Mets combined. They were Michael Conforto, a corner outfielder who had seven; Jeff McNeil, who also is not known for speed but had five; and a three-way tie at four steals (Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez and Juan Lagares). None of those three are still with the team, and Broxton and Gomez each played only 34 games in 2019.

There is no doubt that Rosario has enough speed. His sprint speed ranked in the top 6% of all major-leaguers last year, according to MLB’s Statcast data. DeFrancesco called him “probably one of the fastest guys” in the league. J.D. Davis said he is “just as fast as Trea Turner,” the Nationals’ speedy shortstop who has averaged more than 40 steals per year the past three years.

“I didn’t even notice when I came over here (last year) until some of the guys started talking about how fast he was, because he never really stole any bags or anything like that,” Davis said. “Once I started seeing him run, it’s actually unbelievable.”

The next step is to turn that speed into more steals — and more runs and more wins.

“Right now, what you see is a confident player,” DeFrancesco said. “It took him a little extra attention to detail and maturity. I think that’s where Rosie is at right now.”

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