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Speed a tool Indians plan on exploiting


GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- With as much speed as there is on the Indians' roster, second baseman Jason Kipnis is hoping a kind of competition starts to develop this season.

Cleveland entered this spring with a solid basestealing trio in Kipnis, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs. Now, the Tribe has added fleet-footed ceter fielder Michael Bourn to the mix. Bourn is the elite runner among that group, but Kipnis plans on trying to chase him.

"I want to run, and I want to run a lot," Kipnis said. "I want all of us. I want me, Stubbs and Brantley to try to keep pace with this guy for as long as we can."

Indians manager Terry Francona plans on using this offensive asset to Cleveland's advantage. Whether it is taking an extra base or stealing one, Francona knows the Tribe's potential for speed is a way to generate offense and put pressure on an opposition's defense.

The Tribe will be running plenty this year.

"You just try to use your strengths," Francona said. "It looks like one of our strengths is certainly going to be speed on the bases, and we'd be silly not to use it. Saying that, probably more important to me than the number of stolen bases is probably the percentage that you've stolen."

That holds true when examining Francona's managerial career.

From 1997-2000, when he managed the Phillies, Philadelphia ranked 17th in the Majors in stolen bases (416), but was fourth in the National League in success rate (71.5 percent). From 2004-11, when he managed the Red Sox, Boston ranked 22nd in baseball in stolen bases (676), but was second in the American League and fourth in baseball in success rate (75.3 percent).

Kipnis (84 percent), Bourn (81 percent) and Stubbs (80 percent) have solid career track records. In 2012, Bourn stole 42 bases, Kipnis had 31 for the Tribe and Stubbs had 30 with the Reds. Cleveland has not had three players top 30 stolen bases in one season since 1987.

Last year, the Indians swiped 110 bases (Kipnis led the way with 31), which marked the most for the team since the 2000 season. Cleveland's nine projected 2013 regulars stole a combined 132 bases last season. That is not even counting utility man Mike Aviles, who stole 14 bags for the Red Sox last year.

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