Efficient Offense Is a Steal

Times Staff Writer

The 1985 St. Louis Cardinals, these Angels aren't. Those Cardinals were speed freaks who stole 314 bases, including 110 by Vince Coleman and 56 by Willie McGee, en route to winning the National League pennant.

But through 13 games, the Angels have been surprisingly active on the basepaths, stealing 14 bases in 15 attempts and showing that, although no three-run home run will be turned away, the offense won't be predicated on the long ball alone.

"A lot of people were thinking that with Vlad, G.A. and Troy in the middle of our lineup we'd become a station-to-station team," Manager Mike Scioscia said, referring to Vladimir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus. "But that's not the case. We're going to be aggressive."

There are some in baseball, particularly those in the "Moneyball" camp, who shun stolen-base attempts. Why risk an out, eliminate a potential run from the basepaths and ease the workload for an opposing pitcher?

But Scioscia believes that if the Angels choose their spots wisely -- the quality of a pitcher's move, his ability to hold runners on, and a count that suggests an off-speed pitch are all important factors -- the stolen base can be an important ingredient in an aggressive offensive recipe.

"When you have guys who have a feel for it, they're going to go when they feel good about it," Scioscia said. "Sure, they're going to run into some outs, but we're going to steal more runs by being aggressive. There's no reward without risk."

Two ninth-inning stolen bases by Chone Figgins keyed a 6-5 win over Seattle on Wednesday. Darin Erstad leads the team with four stolen bases, and David Eckstein swiped two against A's left-hander Barry Zito on Sunday night, one that led to the Angels' only run in a 7-1 loss. Even catcher Jose Molina, taking advantage of pitchers who have neglected him, has stolen two bases.

"That's one thing we stressed in spring training: Don't take away the aggressiveness on the basepaths," said Eckstein, the Angels' leadoff batter. "Sometimes we get to pick a pitch to run on, sometimes we get the green light. I like having the freedom to where if you think you can get a good jump, you can go."

Scioscia said the stolen base is only one aspect of the aggressive "little ball" approach he wants the Angels to maintain.

"We go from first to third well, we're a good situational hitting team; that has to be a part of our game," Scioscia said. "We're not going to sit back and let what happens in the batter's box be our total offense."

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With their first off day of the season Monday, Scioscia had the option of skipping Ramon Ortiz or John Lackey in the rotation, but he decided against it. The right-handers, who were each throttled for seven runs in starts at Texas last week, will start against the Rangers at Angel Stadium tonight and Wednesday night.

"Most of our guys could probably use the extra day of rest," Scioscia said of his rotation, which includes Bartolo Colon, Jarrod Washburn and Kelvim Escobar. "Wash had a tough outing in his last start, Colon went eight innings.... We want to get them a little fresher for their next outing rather than juggle the rotation now.

"Our need long-term is for five guys to be throwing the ball well. If you take the ball away from one guy early, that's taking away a chance for him to work on things and for us to evaluate him."

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Former Baltimore Oriole star Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother, Bill, who recently teamed to write the book, "Play Baseball the Ripken Way," will join Glaus in playing host to a youth clinic for 40 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim on Wednesday at Angel Stadium from 1-2 p.m.

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ON DECK

Opponent -- Texas Rangers, three games.

Site -- Angel Stadium.

TV -- Channel 9 tonight, Fox Sports Net on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Radio -- KSPN (710), KTNQ (1020).

Records -- Angels 7-6, Rangers 6-7.

Record vs. Rangers -- 1-3.

Tonight, 7 -- Ramon Ortiz (0-1, 11.88) vs. Kenny Rogers (2-0, 4.05).

Wednesday, 7 p.m. -- John Lackey (0-2, 11.00) vs. R.A. Dickey (1-1, 6.94).

Thursday, 1 p.m. -- Bartolo Colon (2-1, 1.64) vs. Chan Ho Park (1-2, 3.92).

Tickets -- (714) 663-9000.

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