All around Major League Baseball players are having trouble getting bunts down and costing their teams’ games.
Most teams don’t have exceptional bunters outside of lightweight speedsters who use that to an advantage.
Heck, even pitchers — whose only job during an at-bat most of the time is to bunt for a sacrifice — are not doing the task well.
Sure, pitchers on the mound are trying to combat the bunt by throwing high fastballs or pitches that have good movement. But it’s still something that experienced players should do a better job at.
Then there’s RailRiders outfielder Antoan Richardson, who has nearly mastered the art of bunting. Richardson is exceptionally fast, and the switch-hitter can drag a bunt with the best in the business. He even spends time practicing bunts with RailRiders coaches to try to perfect his technique.
“It starts in the cage. …but it’s all about technique and trying to place the ball in the right area and bunt the ball before you run,” said Richardson, who entered Saturday’s game against Rochester with 21 of his 24 hits this season being singles. “If you put the ball where you want it to be your success rate should go up.”
And once he gets to first base, he is one of the best base-stealers in the International League, entering Saturday third in the International League with 12 stolen bases. Richardson getting on base has been almost a ritual as he’s reached safely via walk or hit in 10 of his last 12 games and has a team-high .395 on base percentage.
“I think no matter if you’re up a bunch of runs or down a bunch of runs you have to execute a good at-bat,” said Richardson, who has stolen 35 straight bases dating back nearly a year. The last time he was caught stealing was May 28, 2013, while playing for Rochester and being nabbed by the Lehigh Valley battery of pitcher Ethan Martin and catcher Steven Lerud.
“You don’t always want to run but you want to be a distraction,” he said. “If I get that guy to make a bad pitch, then yeah I want to get to the next base because the name of the game is to cross home plate as much as I can. So anyway I can get 90 feet closer, I’m going to try. “
Richardson, who was signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent on Nov. 16, 2013, has 309 career stolen bases in the minors and one in the big leagues with Atlanta in 2011. That season, when he only played in nine games and went 2 for 4 for the Braves, is the only Major League experience the 30-year-old has experienced in 10 seasons as a pro. His time with the Braves was certainly memorable as he singled in his first career plate appearance, which happened to come against Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Richardson’s 2014 campaign has also been one he’ll remember so far.
In addition to stolen bases, he hit his first Triple-A homer on April 29 after spending parts of four other seasons with Triple-A clubs, spanning 190 games. Just a few days later, he clubbed his second homer of the season and now has recorded his first multi-homer season since he played for Double-A Mississippi in 2008. That season, he went deep a career-high five times.