Yoenis Cespedes likes left field, wants to steal more bases, is really fast

Rob Bradford
August 09, 2014 - 6:35 pm

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Yoenis Cespedes is fast. As John Farrell explained Saturday, this is a fact the Red Sox have been introduced to during their brief introduction to the outfielder. "His running speed is better than we anticipated," the Red Sox manager said. "His range in the outfield, going first to third on a bloop down the right field line. He's got a very strong work ethic. Those are all things we had a feel for. But the range in the outfield and his running speed has been above what was anticipated." The most recent reminder regarding Cespedes speed -- (he says his fastest time in the 60-yard dash is a world-class 6.1 seconds) -- came Friday night when he tracked down a sinking liner off the bat Chris Iannetta. Then there was the extra gear he exhibited when running the bases in St. Louis. They knew about the power and the arm, but, for his new team, Cespedes' wheels were somewhat unexpected. "I don't think we know," said Red Sox first base/outfield coach Arnie Beyeler regarding the impact the outfielder can make with his legs. "He kind of plays pretty easy. He made that catch last night and kind of hit another gear when he got close to that ball. We were playing the wrong way on him, but he came out of nowhere and closed on that ball. Then the other night in St. Louis when he got the triple. He didn't really start running until the ball hit the ground, I look up and he's at third base. He shows a little bit more every day. He's fun to watch play. He's a pretty exciting guy." The mobility leads to a conversation about which position Cespedes might end up at. The original plan was to play him in right field, with newly-acquired Allen Craig shifting over to left field. But with an ankle injury to Craig -- and the need for Cespedes to get more practice in right (a position he has never played) -- the Red Sox have put that blueprint on hold. Then there is the intrigue regarding a possible stint in center field, where Cespedes primarily played in Cuba. But even with the experience in center (and the potential team's need at the position), the power hitter prefers his current spot in left. "I've become accustomed to playing left field," he said. "If I had to play center field,and they asked me to, I would do it. '€¦ I've just grown accustomed to playing (in left). I have to run less to get balls. I've gotten comfortable." The other facet of Cespedes game which might develop with the Red Sox thanks to his speed is an ability to steal bases. In his first season with Oakland, he swiped 16 bases in 20 attempts. But last season that number dropped to seven in as many tries. This season he is 3-for-5 in stole bases tries. "The first couple of years I stole a few more bases, but I started getting some hamstring issues so i got a little timid about stealing bases," he said. "But i would like to steal more bases, and I can."