MINNEAPOLIS — If Jordan Schafer gets on base, he’s going to try to run.
The speedy outfielder the Twins acquired from Atlanta on Aug. 3 isn’t afraid to try and steal bases. When he does, he’s pretty successful at it. Schafer has stolen six bases in six attempts since joining Minnesota’s offense, and he’s been safe in 81 percent of his attempts during five major league seasons.
Some of that is due to his speed, although he admits he wasn’t always this fast; that part is something he’s worked on. But in Schafer’s mind, one of the biggest keys to stealing bases is fearlessness.
"I think first of all you just have to be confident," Schafer said. "Everyone’s going to get thrown out every once in a while. If you get thrown out, you’ve just got to go back out there and keep running like you don’t think you can get thrown out."
Schafer didn’t waste any time showing off his base-stealing abilities when he joined his new team. In his first game in a Twins uniform on Aug. 5, he stole a base against the Padres. One game later, he did the same thing.
Two days with Minnesota, two stolen bases for Schafer.
When he was with the Braves, regular playing time was hard to come by for Schafer. He was in the Twins’ lineup Tuesday against Cleveland, his 12th game (and 11th start) with Minnesota since he arrived. The opportunity to play every day has led to an increase in stolen-base opportunities.
Six successful stolen bases later, Schafer is making the most of those opportunities. In doing so, he’s made a good first impression on a Hall of Famer who has 504 career stolen bases.
"In the short time he’s been here, he’s certainly showed us that he is aggressive. He’s fearless. He has a lot of confidence in his ability to steal bases," said Twins coach Paul Molitor, who works with Minnesota’s players on base running. "I’ve been trying to see how he responds to different information and things that we try to do to give him the best opportunity to be successful. He’s trying to apply those things, which is encouraging as someone who’s trying to advance our team in the area of base running."
Molitor has worked a bit with Schafer on picking up tendencies from opposing pitchers — something the 21-year veteran has done with other Twins players since joining the staff this season. After spending his entire career in the National League up until this month, Schafer hasn’t seen a lot of the American League pitchers that he and the Twins are facing in the final two months of the season.
While Schafer continues to work on reading opposing pitchers during the year, he also hones his speed in the offseasons. For the last several years, the Winter Haven, Fla., native has spent his winters working with Tom Shaw, a speed and performance coach who does a lot of work with football players to prepare them for the NFL Combine.
According to Shaw’s website, www.coachtomshaw.com, the former New England Patriots strength and conditioning coach has worked with 10 Super Bowl MVPs and 142 first-round NFL Draft picks during his tenure — and at least one Major League Baseball speedster.
"He’s a football guy, so he works on guys’ 40 (yard dashes)," Schafer said. "We just work on starts and top-end speed. He’s the best speed guy that I know in the country."
Clearly, Shaw’s tutelage has worked for Schafer, who has stolen 94 bases in the majors while getting thrown out just 22 times. He’s never been one to hit for a high average during his career, but when he does get on, you can bet he’ll take off running.
"They’ve given me the green light. I’m looking to run 100 percent of the time," Schafer said. "I think it’s a big thing, especially in today’s game where you’re not going to hit a bunch of three-run homers anymore. You have to fight for runs in different ways, whether it’s bunting or stealing bases. You have to manufacture runs. I think it can be a big help."