Fresno Hits The Ground Running

Triple-A club swiping bases at alarming rate

SAN FRANCISCO—In his second season managing at Triple-A Fresno, Steve Decker seems to be preaching a Little League approach to his players: Don't stop running till you're tagged out.

"He told us we're going to run if we're tired, we're going to run if we're . . .  it doesn't even matter. We're going to run teams to death," outfielder Darren Ford said. "Now we've got catchers scared to throw to the bases. They don't even have a chance."

In their first eight games, the Grizzlies stole 31 bases in 32 attempts—including a franchise record 10-steal night against Las Vegas. Indianapolis had the second-most steals over that span—with 12. Fresno infielder Emmanuel Burriss had more than that by himself, leading the team with 13. Thomas Neal was the only player caught, and that happened on a failed hit-and-run.

The Grizzlies slowed their pace in the following weeks, and no, they probably won't challenge the Pacific Coast League record of 422, which the 1903 San Francisco Seals set in a 217-game schedule.

But Decker wanted to get the league's attention, and he certainly succeeded. Even Travis Ishikawa, not known for his speed, swiped a pair of bases after the Giants designated him for assignment.

"His slide was one for the ages," Cody Ross said after a two-game rehab assignment with the Grizzlies. "(Decker) had had the catcher stealing second base, and I was the only one with a red light."

Now Brandon Belt will lace up his track cleats for Decker. The Giants optioned their Opening Day first baseman to Fresno on April 20—his 23rd birthday—after he hit .192/.300/.269 in 17 games.


• Fresno righthander Marc Kroon, an unexpected star in the pilot episode of Showtime's documentary series on the Giants, pitched a hitless ninth on April 10 to pick up his first save on American soil since 2004. Kroon, 38, spent the previous six years in Japan, where he set a record by throwing a 162 kph (100.6 mph) fastball while saving 177 games for the Yokohama Bay Stars and Yomiuri Giants. In seven appearances this season he had three saves, 10 strikeouts and a 1-1,  2.35 record.

• The Giants released outfielder Ben Copeland, their top pick (a fourth-rounder) in 2005. He hit .280/.378/.404 in 2010, but hadn't seen action yet in 2011.