The Minnesota Twins have turned themselves into one of baseball's best running teams this season. They've stolen 86 bases, the second-most in the American League, and have done it efficiently, too, getting thrown out only 26 times.
That speed helped them score more runs in July than any other team in baseball. And one of the keys to it, according to manager Ron Gardenhire, is a relatively unknown fourth outfielder who had played one major league game before this season.
Darin Mastroianni, who's played in 41 games this season, stole second and third base off Francisco Liriano on Tuesday to become the fourth Twins player with double-digit steals this year. Mastroianni's aggressive approach to running begins long before the game starts.
Mastroianni is perhaps the Twins' most prepared baserunner, studying pitchers' delivery times to the plate and memorizing the sequences in their delivery. He'll frequently pick up cues in a pitcher's approach to the plate, Gardenhire said, and point them out to other players, whether he's in the game or on the bench. That knowledge has helped teammates such as Ben Revere, who leads the team with 25 steals.
"They're in the game, and the conversation's going along pretty good between all those guys," Gardenhire said Wednesday before the Twins' 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox. "Some pitchers are going to stop (the opponents from) running. We know that, but I don't believe Mastroianni knows that, and that's a good thing."