It's not displayed on the scoreboard.

It doesn't govern when the game ends.

But there is a clock in baseball.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland talked about it Sunday, moments after he sat down behind his desk at Marchant Stadium for the first time this year and punched in for spring training.

"One thing we're going to pay attention to is the times to the plate for our pitchers," Leyland said, announcing a spring-training priority. "It's something we've got to do a little better at."

He's talking about the time -- measured by a stopwatch -- that it takes the pitcher to get the ball to home plate when a runner on first has a chance to steal second. Last year, the Tigers allowed the second-most stolen bases in the American League.

Like most baseball people, Leyland realizes that thwarting a steal attempt depends more on the pitcher than the catcher. It's not how the catcher can get the ball to second, it's how quickly the pitcher can get the ball to the catcher.

"If we give Alex a chance, he throws them out," Leyland said of catcher Alex Avila.

Trying to get the ball to Avila faster isn't all the Tigers will be doing this spring to address their huge stolen-base deficit. Last season, when they allowed the second-most steals in the league with 131, the Tigers themselves stole 59 bases, the second-lowest total in the league. That's a stolen-base deficit of 72, more than twice as large as any other team in the league.

In the off-season, the Tigers quietly hired former big-league coach Jeff Cox as a base-stealing instructor. He has a locker in the spring-training clubhouse, and he is expected to spend at least two or three weeks in camp. His biggest project would figure to be Austin Jackson, who plummeted to 12 steals last season despite the speed that garnered him a league-high 10 triples and all those catches in which he seemingly outran the ball.