Jason Heyward set out to be more aggressive on the basepaths this season, and he’s well on his way. The Braves resurgent right fielder was a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen bases entering the weekend series with the Pirates. That’s just three shy of his total in steals from all off last season, when he was 9-for-11.
“I’ve got some speed, use it,” said Heyward, who lost 20 pounds during the offseason, which has made him even lighter on his feet.
He’s also got the National League leader in stolen bases over the past three years to learn from in Braves leadoff man Michael Bourn, who also led the majors last season with 61 steals.
Heyward said he’s kept a close eye on Bourn and makes a point to stand with bench coach Carlos Tosca in the dugout when Bourn is on first or second, to get pitchers’ times to the plate.
“I really get a good visual feel,” Heyward said. “Other than that, it’s just going off what I know now and trying to improve on it, getting better at it. It helps seeing him a lot though.”
Heyward stole 11 bases in 17 attempts during his breakout rookie season in 2010. Fifteen was his career high in the minor leagues, on 18 attempts, in 2008 for Single-A Rome.
Heyward hasn’t set a specific number to shoot for this year, except to just keep building on what he’s doing.
“Just go for however many I can get,” Heyward said. “Just keep running see where we end up.”
Heyward has six stolen bases to Bourn’s seven on the season, and Bourn has been caught three times. Bourn said he’s drawn more attention from pitchers than he ever has before.
“I’ve never seen it like I’ve seen it this time,” Bourn said. “It’s more pick over, pick over, pitch out, pitch out, pick over, quick to the plate. So I don’t like to force the issue right off the bat. But eventually they’ll ease off as our team, we start banging a little bit more. Then I’ll start to pick them up again.”