SCOTTSDALE - When meeting with reporters after Saturday's game, the play Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson seemed most excited to discuss was pitcher Zach Duke's third-inning pick-off of a Rockies base runner.
This comes as no surprise to those who have been around Gibson in his first spring training as the D-backs manager.
"Gibby's paranoid about the running game," said former D-backs pitcher Mike Fetters, in camp as a special instructor.
Not only does Gibson consider it an area in which the club can show significant improvement - in fact, he had pitchers working on being quicker to the plate almost immediately after getting the job last year - he also believes it can make a big impact on the game.
"There's certain guys that are very aggressive out there, and you want to be able to slow them down," Gibson said. "If they get overly aggressive, we want to get to a point someday where we have a weapon and we can use that aggressiveness against them.
"It's a long process. We can't work on it for a week and think it's going to be great. It may take us years, but we're going to get better."
They have plenty of room for improvement. Last season, the D-backs allowed 115 steals, tied for the second-most in the National League.
In some ways, Gibson is the perfect man to teach pitchers how to keep runners close. During his playing career, Gibson stole 284 bases with a 78 percent success rate.
He spent the majority of the time during his first spring on the D-backs staff working with base runners, and several players credited him for their improvement.
Gibson is known for being able to spot the slightest hint in a pitcher's delivery or move to first, a tiny giveaway that might make the difference between an out and a stolen base.
But for help, he brought in Fetters and former left-hander Ed Vosberg to work with pitchers on their moves to first. Both were known for having excellent pick-off moves, Fetters especially for his third-to-first move.
"If you can keep them close to first and vary looks, they're not going to get into scoring position," Fetters said. "There are situations where you can catch a guy sleeping. It can save you runs in the long run."
But, Fetters said, pitchers have to work on it.
"Guys don't practice it," he said. "They do it in spring training and then they never do it again."
Much to Gibson's delight, Duke caught the Rockies' Dexter Fowler on Saturday in an 8-7 loss in 10 innings.
"That was good stuff there; it was a great move," Gibson said. "That's the kind of stuff we've been working on."