Sign Language – Brandon Crawford
Marco Scutaro returned to the team this morning from the World Baseball Classic. So great to have him and Pablo back. The clubhouse is always a bit louder with Pablo around. He was there this morning playing cards with some of the Latin players at the round table near his locker. I don’t think there is ever a moment when Pablo isn’t finding a way to have a good time.
While Marco was gone, different guys played second, including Tanaka who speaks very little English. Communication is probably the biggest thing between a shortstop and second baseman so it’s something we work on in spring training.
If a ball’s hit to right-center, for example, you have to communicate who’s the cutoff man and who’s going to trail. With Scutaro I already know that I’ll take the cutoff because I have a stronger arm. But if Joaquin Arias is playing second, he’ll take the throw. A shortstop has to work that out with every second-baseman.
Or if I’m expecting a hit-and-run — let’s say there’s an average runner at first and a good contact hitter at the plate — I’ll alert the second-baseman that I suspect a hit-and-run to the right side and that I’ll be covering second.
Of course the other team can’t know what you’re saying. So there’s a lot of nonverbal communication. Before a pick-off play, I’ll point to the second-baseman if he should cover the throw, or I’ll wiggle my glove if I’m going to take it.
If we’re expecting a runner to steal second, I’ll signal with my mouth to the second baseman who’s covering the bag: If I open my mouth, he’s covering; if I close my mouth, I’m covering. I do this, of course, behind my glove so the the opposing team can’t see.
Yesterday all the fielders worked on taking cutoffs. You might think, “What’s there to work on? A cutoff’s a cutoff.’’ But Bochy had us doing something different. He noticed that when outfielders had to retrieve balls all the way to the wall, their throws weren’t as crisp and strong. The reason is they had to basically stop to pick up the ball before throwing, which means they had no momentum. The throws sailed in on an arc, and we’d have a tough time making the play.
Bochy had the infielders position themselves about 15 feet farther out than usual to receive the throws. The result was that the outfielders’ throws were stronger and faster, and so the cutoff men got the ball back to the infield more quickly. It should give us a better chance at nailing runners at third and home.
We also worked on bunts. I’m pretty good at sac bunts — I hit the best sac bunt of my life in Game 4 in Detroit to put Theriot in scoring position at second base. But I need to get better at bunting for base hits. I always bunt too hard, and the third-baseman throws me out easily. You have to deaden the ball so the third-baseman can’t reach it. And the trick to that is to almost catch the ball on your bat. It’s really an art to get the timing just right — to pull the bat back just as it’s meeting the pitch. And you have to make sure you take the pitch at the top of the zone and push down so you don’t pop it up.
I’ll keep working on that and a dozen other things through spring training. We’re having a great time just being together. And the weather is perfect right now. But I’m a Bay Area guy, so I’ll be happy when we go north, back to AT&T and 40,000 cheering fans.
See you there.