LOS ANGELES -- Even though he already has won three stolen base titles in his career, Juan Pierre said he never really has been a guy to look at the leaderboards.
Wins are what the 35-year-old veteran has always prized most. But when informed earlier this week he was tied with the Red Sox’s Jacoby Ellsbury for the major-league lead with a dozen swipes, Pierre couldn’t help but crack a smile.
“That’s a stat usually when you get up in age that you usually don’t see guys leading in that area,” said Pierre, who last led the majors in steals in 2010 when he swiped 68 bases for the White Sox at age 32.
“If I get the opportunity to play and do those type things [later in the season] it would be cool to see if there are bunch of 25-, 26-year-olds and me at the top there. I’ll be 36 at the end of the season. To be up there with those guys at the end would be pretty cool.”
Odds are Pierre simply won’t get the opportunities to make that happen. The Marlins (10-25) almost assuredly will have one of their top prospects — Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick or Pablo Ozuna — sharing playing time with Pierre in left at the very least before this season is over. Pierre knows that — and understood it when he signed a one-year, $1.6 million deal before this season. But he’s not letting it get him down.
Manager Mike Redmond said Pierre is still trying to win as much as anybody on the field for the Marlins. He gets to the ballpark early for extra work, provides encouragement to the young guys in the clubhouse and is turning his own play up after getting off to a slow start (.191, 10 strikeouts and three steals in his first 17 games).
Entering Friday’s series opener at Dodger Stadium, Pierre was hitting .306 with nine steals, five walks and two strikeouts over his past 14 games. Redmond said getting Pierre a few extra days off between games has helped keep him fresher of late.
“His work ethic and what he brings to this team is off the charts,” Redmond said. “I’m out here running this afternoon at 12:30 and JP is out here going through his stretching program and running program.
“I didn’t think he could ever keep that work ethic up when I played with him. He sure has. He’s a special player and a special guy.”
Pierre, the second-oldest player on the roster behind third baseman Placido Polanco, 37, said he has gotten a few good laughs this season when some of the Marlins’ youngest players like Yelich, catcher Rob Brantly and even All-Star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton have recounted how they watched him and the Marlins win the World Series back in 2003 when they were “in the fifth or sixth grade.”
“I can’t believe its been 10 years already — makes me feel real old,” Pierre said. “... Hopefully, I can fit in at least for the rest of this season. But I know how the game goes. I’ve been on six different teams. I would just like to be in the big leagues.”
With 603 career steals, Pierre currently ranks 18th all-time. Three players ahead of him on the list could be within reach — George Davis (619), Otis Nixon (620) and Kenny Lofton (622) — if he keeps up his current pace.
Winning the stolen-base crown at 36 would be a rare feat for Pierre. Only two have done it over the age of 35. Rickey Henderson was the oldest. He stole 66 bases at age 39 to lead the American League.