KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Catcher A.J. Pierzynski says there is one reason he has thrown out 16 of the past 39 baserunners who have tried to steal a base on him.
"Hector Ortiz," Pierzynski said.
There you go. The Rangers' minor league catching instructor, who also works closely with Pierzynski and Geovany Soto, is the man behind the scenes helping the club's catchers throw out 27 percent of all basestealers.
That percentage has risen dramatically as Pierzynski has improved this season. The first 25 runners who tried to steal on him were successful. You can see the success rate -- or failure rate -- of Rangers opponents since then.
Soto threw out two basestealers in the second inning of Thursdays' 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, helping starter Yu Darvish wade through a start in which he had command issues. Soto has thrown out 30 percent of basestealers.
Pierzynski said, for eight seasons in Chicago, the White Sox didn't care about throwing out baserunners. It wasn't a team philosophy.
With Ortiz around for the Rangers, it is. Ortiz studies video religiously. "I try to pay attention to the little things," Ortiz said. He also studies video and calls and talks to the Rangers' catchers when he's on the road instructing the minor league catchers.
Pierzynski has improved his footwork and his weight shift during the season, helping him to make stronger throws. It says something that Pierzynski, a 13-year veteran, would be willing to listen to Ortiz.
That speaks volumes.
"They like it," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Pierzynski and Soto getting instruction from Ortiz. "You can see the difference. They're both throwing the ball well."
What's Ortiz's secret?
"He's good at getting them to apply," Washington said. "That's a coach right there. That's a teacher."
The Rangers have to slow down the running game in this weekend series against Kansas City. The Royals lead the major leagues with 147 stolen bases. The Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers are next with 132 steals.
Nathan sends message: Closer Joe Nathan told pitching coach Mike Maddux he wanted to pitch the ninth inning Thursday night against Tampa Bay, even with the Rangers holding a 6-2 lead, even with Nathan pitching for a third straight day.
The reason? Nathan wanted to send a message to the Rays after he blew a save against them on Wednesday night in the 11th inning. Nathan had two strikes on two straight hitters and allowed them to reach base, the second one David DeJesus' walk-off single.
Nathan rebounded Thursday, allowing one hit. He got the last word.
"We're going to see those guys again," Nathan said of a possible wild-card game matchup with Tampa Bay. "I wanted that last game to be a positive. I wanted them to be the ones carrying in, in a one-game playoff, to have that bad taste in their mouth."
Nathan also said the extra work will help with his sharpness. He hadn't pitched in nine days before pitching the last three games against Tampa Bay. He said before Friday's game that he feels great, he likes to pitch regularly and he expects to be ready if needed against Kansas City.
Short hops: Pierzynski has a bruised finger on his glove hand, but it's not considered to be a serious injury Darvish will pitch the final game of the regular season next Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, if the Rangers are playing a meaningful game as far as the postseason.