"It's like you can smell it -- 'This time I've got to go,'" Burriss said.That sense, he noted, is usually stronger after he gets a base hit. "Sometimes when you get a hit, you have that confidence, and you need a little bit of that confidence to steal a base," he said. "You're feeling good about yourself. You're feeling good about the type of jump you'll be able to get. It's a little bit different than getting a walk or a fielder's choice. Sometimes when you steal after a walk or a fielder's choice, you're kind of like pressing -- 'I have to prove to the team I can do something good.'" Of course, the sheer repetition of reaching base helps Burriss sharpen his stealing technique.
"It's a lot easier when you get on base more," said first-base coach Roberto Kelly, who handles baserunning instruction. Kelly added that under any circumstance, Burriss is adept at larceny.
"He has a good instinct for reading pitchers," Kelly said.Struggling to generate offense, the Giants value Burriss' ability to advance on his own.
"Manny's one of those guys who can get a base when you need it," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It seems like we're getting more of those types of players now, instead of just sitting back and trying to slug it out. ... We're not a power-hitting club and it's nice to have to some guys who can steal a base to help you create those opportunities to put a run on the board."Burriss was on pace to steal 52 bases, which would approach the franchise's San Francisco-era record of 58 set by Billy North in 1979. George Burns, who amassed 62 thefts in 1914, owns the all-time Giants record (since 1900). But, due partly to the physical erosion most basestealers endure, Burriss won't steal just to inflate his statistics. Especially now.
"Early in the season, it's important to get a feel for when to go," he said, pointing out that refining his judgment now will help him make better baserunning decisions later in the year.Nevertheless, Burriss will occupy territory rarely reached by a Giant if he continues to rank among the league leaders in steals. No Giant has finished in the top five in that category since Barry Bonds was fifth with 28 thefts in 1998. Bonds also was the last Giant to top 30 steals, collecting 37 in 1997, and the last to get 40, accumulating exactly that many in 1996. The last Giant to lead the NL in steals was Willie Mays, who had 29 in 1959. That was the last of four consecutive years in which Mays paced the league.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.