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08/16/08 1:49 AM ET

Taveras sets Rockies steal record

Center fielder swipes bags Nos. 54-55 of season Friday

WASHINGTON -- Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras arrived at his locker to see the lineup card from Friday night's 4-3 victory over the Nationals, a token to commemorate breaking the club's single-season stolen-base record.

After so much stealing, it was nice to receive a gift.

Taveras singled as a pinch-hitter to lead off the seventh inning. He stole against pitcher Jesus Colome and catcher Jesus Flores to improve his season total to 54 and surpass Eric Young's 1996 total.

Taveras stayed in the game and added his Major League-best 55th steal, on his 61st attempt, in the ninth.

"It's so exciting when you can do stuff like that, and especially if you can win a ballgame," said Taveras, who sat for much of the game as Seth Smith made his first Major League start in center.

The Rockies acquired the speedy Taveras from the Astros in a December 2006 trade and gave him an immediate green light. Last season, Taveras set career marks for batting average (.320) and on-base percentage (.382), but he finished with just 33 steals, partly because he was bothered throughout the second half of the year by a strained right quadriceps.

Taveras spent part of last winter in Denver to work on acclimating himself to the dry climate. He also focused on improving his technique and awareness. Manager Clint Hurdle said Taveras is a better basestealer by "leaps and bounds."

Even though his offensive numbers have dropped off to a .257 average and .309 on-base percentage, Taveras has increased his stolen-base success by reading situations better and incorporating steals of third. He is 16-for-17 at third, after not swiping third once last season.

"For me, when I'm healthy, I'm going to try to steal, if the game provides me a steal," Taveras said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.