FORT MYERS, Fla. Ben Revere's speed nearly got him in trouble last year.
As he laced a triple to right field during a mid-July game at Target Field, Revere sprinted around second base and headed for third. But the Twins outfielder was seemingly going too fast and stumbled over his own feet. After a nifty somersault, Revere popped back up in stride and slid safely into third for a triple.
The 23-year-old Revere used that same speed, however, to set a new Twins rookie record with 34 stolen bases. And he did so in just 117 games after being called up partway through the 2011 season.
"I mean, I'm trying to do that in a full season," said fellow outfielder Denard Span. "I think he's definitely going to be the leader as far as that category. I think he might encourage all of us, watching him play. I think watching him take bases, it might open it up for everybody to take those chances and be more aggressive."
If the Twins are going to run against opposing defenses this season, it starts with Revere and Span. After playing much of last year in center field when Span was injured, Revere will likely spent 2012 in left field. He'll also likely bat toward the bottom of Minnesota's order, keeping speed at the end of the lineup before it turns over to the leadoff hitter Span.
Span only played 70 games in 2011 due to a concussion and stole just six bases in seven attempts. In 2010, however, he notched 26 steals in 153 games.
As Minnesota's leadoff hitter, Span's job is to get on base in front of big bats Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and offseason acquisition Josh Willigham. Span had a career-low on-base percentage of just .328 last year and an OBP .331 in 2010. But his OBP in 2009, his first full season in the majors, was a career-best .392.
Once he gets to first base, Span knows he's capable of creating some havoc on the base paths.
"I want to be more aggressive at appropriate times," he said. "I feel like that's the one part of my leadoff game that I want to improve on is being more aggressive on the bases and getting in scoring position instead of drawing a walk and just staying on first.
"I want to get in scoring position so I can score more runs."
The Twins also think Jamey Carroll will be capable of stealing some bases for them this season. Yes, 38-year-old Jamey Carroll. His 10 stolen bases last season would have been fourth-most on the Twins behind Revere, Alexi Casilla (15) and Michael Cuddyer (11).
"I was watching him run down the first base line (Saturday)," Span said of Carroll. "I was telling him he's 38 years old and to watch him move and hustle the way he hustles is very impressive."
Carroll, signed this offseason as a free agent shortstop, will likely follow Span in the Twins' lineup as the No. 2 hitter and bat ahead of Mauer. Carroll's career-high in steals came in 2010 when he swiped 12 bags. Yet while he's the oldest player in camp for the Twins, Carroll thinks he's still able to steal a base or two.
"I think I can get them when needed," Carroll said. "I think any time you get the top of the lineup on base, good things are going to happen regardless of where you're at. What we try to do here -- and it's been that way for years -- is get on base for the big guys in the middle. It's ultimately the goal."
But it's not all about stealing bases. Revere, for instance, has been working on his bunting. In a "B" game against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Revere sized up the Pittsburgh infielders, dropped down a bunt toward second base and beat it out for a base hit.
Revere has been working on bunting with former Twin and Baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew, a prolific bunter during his career who ranks fourth all-time with 151 bunt hits in 190 attempts, according to baseballprospectus.com.
"My first big league camp I was working with him on my bunt game. He's been telling me each year it's gotten better," Revere said of Carew. "Hopefully by next spring training if I'm still with the Twins, I could be just like him, how he bunts. So I'll definitely put that in my game and make a lot of defenses mad."
The Twins haven't finished in the top 20 in the majors in stolen bases since 2009 when their 85 steals were good for 18th overall. Minnesota hasn't swiped 100 bags since 2008, when its 102 steals marked the fifth straight season with over 100 stolen bases.
Do the 2012 Twins have enough speed to do some damage? They think so.
"I think we've got four guys that can run -- me, Jamey, Lexi and Ben -- that are capable of putting pressure on defenses and making things happen on the bases," Span said. "I think every year we've been successful, I think it's always been the table setter guys or the piranhas, if you want to say that, guys getting on base for Justin and Joe -- and Cuddy back in the day. Now we've got Josh Willingham. I think if we can get on base for those guys, I'll take our chances."
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