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Francona values baserunning over stolen bases


GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The retooled Cleveland Indians offense can run. With Jason Kipnis, Drew Stubbs, Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley, it is no secret Cleveland will be able to steal bases in 2013.

The quartet of Indians combined to swipe 115 bags last season, but manager Terry Francona's focus is not on stealing bases. Instead, he is focused on strong, fundamental baserunning.

"I think we have the potential to be [a good baserunning team]," Francona said. "That's more important to me than the number of stolen bases. Not getting doubled off on line drives, going first to third, things like that. That's more important to me than the number of stolen bases we have."

In addition to going from first to third on a hit, the Indians' speed is expected to put pressure on opposing defenses, something Francona has experience managing against.

"When you go into a series [against a team that can run], you better throw the ball where it is supposed to go, or they will run you into errors/mistakes and embarrass you."

Forcing opponents to make the right defensive play is certainly the Indians' goal, but there is a time and place to be aggressive on the basepaths. Cleveland hopes to use its speed to force mistakes and generate additional offense, but that does not mean the Indians will run wild.

Francona still wants his guys to be smart and pick their spots.

"However you produce runs, that's the idea," Francona said. "We want to push, and we want to be intelligent. Our job as coaches and managers is to put guys in positions where they can use their tools. If they can run, we will let them run."

William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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