TORONTO – Towards the end of the 2013 season, Adam Lind sounded like someone who believed his days with the Toronto Blue Jays were coming to an end.
Though he was in the midst of posting an impressive .924 OPS in 421 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers, the uncertainty over whether GM Alex Anthopoulos would exercise his $7 million option prompted the 30-year-old to go for nostalgic walks around the city, taking a last look at things.
“I was preparing for it,” Lind said in an interview Friday before heading out on the club’s annual winter tour. “I was really hoping I was going to be back, but for some reason you never find out until the last minute, and I’m really excited and pumped to be able to stay here for another season.”
That’s something the slugger knows not to take for granted, especially with his name emerging in trade talks even after Anthopoulos exercised his option Oct. 31. A third-round draft choice in 2003 (a compensatory pick for the Los Angeles Angels’ signing of Kelvim Escobar) who is among the few homegrown players on the Blue Jays roster, Lind may find himself back in a similar spot this September.
The Blue Jays hold a $7.5 million option for 2015 or a $1 million buyout, and having lived through the uncertainty once, he’s gained some insight into what to expect.
“It wasn’t tearing me up because it’s part of the game and how things go in this business,” said Lind. “I definitely would have been sad, but I was prepared for either way the decision went.”
The bout of trade rumours involving Lind – the Pirates inquired before the winter meetings in December but talks went nowhere when the Blue Jays asked for Neil Walker, while the Marlins are also believed to have checked in on him – underlined the value in his contract in a pricey free-agent market.
Anthopoulos was never really inclined to move Lind – asking about James Loney and several other first-base options just in case something interesting was presented to him.
“I know my wife was a little concerned,” said Lind. “I was like, ‘OK, and I just imagined myself in Pittsburgh, or Miami, or wherever it might have been. I wasn’t worried about it, really.”
The prime concern for him and his teammates now is recovering from the 74-88 shipwreck that followed 2013’s lofty expectations.
Manager John Gibbons said Friday that “we were hyped pretty good as the team that’s going to win it all, and we didn’t respond well,” and added that he expects the club to benefit from a year of familiarity, both points Lind agreed with.
“It will be good that we’re back together, it’s the first time in a few years that we’ll have a lot of the same faces from the previous season,” he said. “At least we all know each other and there won’t be awkward moments, who am I going to throw with today, little things like that. I think the expectations will be the same as they are every year, just the buzz might be a little different.”
Does that matter?
“Not to me,” said Lind. “A lot of it was created by our own doing with social media, which is part of the game these days. We’ve lost some of the Twitter-a-holics we might have had around our team, and that’s where you hear the hype and the noise and the expectations and the outside stuff that can be good. But last year there was so much hype – I’m not going to say expectations because in the clubhouse, we’ll have the same – we just heard a lot of the noise from the outside world.”
Asked how that may have manifested itself, Lind replied: “It just gets your head into a different place instead of just worrying about the game of baseball, and winning games, and realizing if we win games everything else takes care of itself, not the other way around.”
Lind can do his part to help win more games by finding ways to be more consistent from start to finish. While the Blue Jays are still looking for a lefty-masher to platoon him with – Moises Sierra is the only real internal option right now – he plans to continue being less stubborn at the plate in 2014.
Being more willing to tweak his swing last year helped him put up big numbers in May, June and September, and avoiding the cold stretch he endured in July and August would make a big difference.
“I learned that it’s not bad to change – why continue to do the same things for a month when it’s been an atrocious month? You’ve got to do something different,” Lind explained. “That is the thing I learned – it’s not necessarily what I’m going to do to change, but realize that if you’re uncomfortable for a few days, you have to make minor adjustments over the course of the season.
“It’s always hard to accept it because you’ve had success and want to continue doing it that way, but with all the different types of pitchers there are and how they throw and timing, it’s just hard to have the exact same swing all season.”
A payoff from 2013’s misery will only come through the application of lessons learned into 2014. Lind is simply happy to once again be getting that chance with the Blue Jays.