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LeMahieu becoming a sneaky basestealing threat

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If you're going to steal, it helps to be quiet and sneaky. Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu has an abundance of both qualities.

In the fifth inning of Wednesday night's 9-6 victory over the Cubs, with right-hander Jose Veras pitching, LeMahieu stole second and third bases. He beat the throw easily at second and deftly slid past a tag at third. LeMahieu had all but blended into the background before taking off both times. Finally, a rattled Veras balked LeMahieu home.

LeMahieu's numbers don't yet scream that he's a stolen-base threat, but they're gradually speaking louder. In just 109 games last season, LeMahieu stole 18 bases in 25 attempts. His total was third on the team to Carlos Gonzalez's 21 and Dexter Fowler's 19. It was a high total for a player who never stole more than 15 in a Minor League season.

Projecting LeMahieu's total over 162 games -- assuming he played in all of them -- it would be around 27. Last year, the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen's 27 steals were good for sixth in the National League.

"I'm not one of those basestealers that are going to steal when they know I'm going," LeMahieu said. "But if I can pick my certain times here and there, I can be successful at that."

LeMahieu gave a preview of his ability on the bases in 33 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs at the start of last season, when he succeeded on 8-of-10 attempts. The jump to the Majors didn't lessen his abilities to read pitchers or his willingness to use his slightly above-average speed.

LeMahieu likely will divide his time hitting eighth and first in the Rockies' order. When he's first in the order he'll have to make sure his running doesn't take away from Michael Cuddyer, a gap/power hitter who will bat second. But he will always be looking to use his mind, which is a more important tool than his feet.

"I have a sense during the game," LeMahieu said. "I watch a little video and get the times [that the pitcher usually takes from the start of his motion to get the ball to the plate, and from the start of the pitcher's delivery to the arrival of the catcher's throw at second],but it's mostly instinct. By always looking for it, opportunities come up every once in a while."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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