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02/16/09 5:25 PM EST
Taveras has sights set on 100 steals
New Reds leadoff hitter knows he must get on base more
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Catchers beware. Infielders beware, too. New Reds leadoff hitter Willy Taveras wants to make your jobs harder. The fleet-footed Taveras isn't ruling out stealing 100 bases this season. Last season he stole a Major League and career-high 68 bags during what was an otherwise disappointing offensive season for the Rockies.
"To go over 100, if your on-base percentage is .350, that can be possible," Taveras said on Monday. "It can happen."
While getting 600-700 plate appearances helps his odds, any chance to reach 100 steals means the center fielder has to get on base a lot more than last year, when his OBP was just .308. Plan on seeing Taveras do more to improve his chances of reaching the one base he can't steal -- first base.
The Reds, which are morphing into an offense that stresses speed over power, want Taveras to use his quickness by hitting the ball on the ground and bunting more.
"Bunting helps my game a lot," Taveras said. "To be honest, I will try to bunt once a game. The more I can put the pressure on the infield, I can't let them forget I can bunt or steal."
Lacking power, Taveras batted .251 last season, with just 18 of his 120 hits going for extra bases. With a Major League-leading 207 infield hits since 2005, that totals 37 percent of his total career hits.
Taveras' playing time wasn't as regular in 2008. He said he rarely started in day games or Sundays.
"I was more consistent hitting [in 2007], plus I was more consistent being in the lineup than I was in Colorado last year," Taveras said. "There was no reason. It was what the manager felt like. It was an awesome year in 2007."
Two seasons ago, Taveras hit .320 with a .367 on-base percentage in 97 games as Colorado went on to the World Series. After last year's step backwards, the Rockies non-tendered the 27-year-old before the Reds signed him to a two-year, $6.25 million contract.
A fan of manager Dusty Baker's and a longtime friend of fellow Dominican native, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Taveras was thrilled with his new situation.
"More than excited. It's a pleasure to be here," Taveras said.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.