When Chad Kuhl walked the third batter of the second inning Friday night at Marlins Park, putting runners on the corners with one out, Elias Diaz stepped in front of home plate and gave Kuhl an elaborate hand signal. Kuhl's next pitch was a pitchout, and Diaz quickly fired a throw to first to try to pick off the Marlins' Lewis Brinson.
Brinson slid under the tag; however, Diaz's decision prevented the speedy center fielder from attempting to steal second base. One of the Pirates' collective goals — including the pitchers, catchers and infielders — is to make runners think twice about trying to take a large lead like Brinson's and prevent them from taking an extra base.
Pitchers, particularly the young starters who struggled in that facet last season, are mixing their holds on the mound. Francisco Cervelli's new catching stance behind home plate has improved his arm strength. And the middle infielders are communicating with both. After all, the Pirates were among the easiest teams to run on in 2017.