Washburn keeps runners at bay

Washburn keeps runners at bay

SEATTLE -- When the Yankees' Johnny Damon stole third base against Jarrod Washburn in the third inning of Sunday's game, it marked the first successful steal allowed by Washburn in his last 122 2/3 innings on the mound.

So naturally, the Mariners left-hander must have that graceful, unreadable pickoff normally associated with southpaws like the Yankees' Andy Pettitte.

Not the case, according to Washburn.

"It's not my move. My move's terrible," Washburn said Monday. "It's just an awareness, game awareness, paying attention to the runner and working the slide-step. ... When I slide-step, I'm very fast to the plate, so I know that there's not much of a chance."

Washburn tried -- albeit, unsuccessfully -- to develop a move in the Minor Leagues, but could never quite figure it out. Add in a high leg kick that let runners waltz into the next base, and he had a little problem on his hands.

"I knew I had to figure out something, so instead of working on the move which I couldn't figure out ... I just started working the slide-step in and trying to just cut down on stealing attempts, and that's worked," he said.

Still, when Washburn first got to the big leagues, the runners insisted on trying him out.

"I think I led the league one year in pickoffs, even with a bad move," Washburn said. "I picked like 12 guys off one year."

Washburn takes his shot every Spring Training at developing an effective pickoff move, but to no avail. Instead, he'll stick with the boring one -- and stymie his opponents' running game in the process.

Jesse Baumgartner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.