Rojas 'running like crazy' in '21

August 11th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- might not have elite sprint speed -- he ranks in the 42nd percentile -- but that hasn't deterred him from making a difference on the basepaths this season.

Rojas entered Tuesday night's game against the Padres with a career-high 11 stolen bases, with just one caught stealing. In Monday's series opener, he took second during the third inning.

The eight-year veteran, who had just 24 career steals before this season, credits his preparation with first-base coach Keith Johnson. That includes identifying barely recognizable patterns -- like a pitcher moving his elbow or his back knee. Or running on certain pitches -- like Joe Musgrove's breaking ball, which he turns to in specific counts. Rojas relies on checking video, then seeing the pitcher's pickoff move or delivery from the first-base angle when he reaches. Being a middle infielder also helps, particularly on delayed steals because the shortstop or second baseman might not be paying attention.

"I can't really go to second if the guy's going 1.4 seconds and under because I'm not that fast," Rojas said. "I'm going to have to get a good jump. But if I find something that I can take a couple milliseconds before he starts his move to the plate, I think I'm going to have a good chance. I've been able to focus on that and know who I can go against."

Rojas, who is playing through a fracture in his left index finger, can only slide feet first. With Starling Marte and Adam Duvall no longer on the team, runs have been harder to come by. Since the start of July, the Marlins have a MLB-high 27 steals.

"I've been blessed this year that I've been on base a lot," Rojas said. "At the end of the day, we haven't been able to score so many runs as of late, and for me it's part of our game now. We have to try to take the extra base, and that's why I've been running like crazy [more] than I've ever run before. I feel the necessity of getting those extra 90 feet because we're not really producing much, so for me it's like we have to find a way."