NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Word of the Toronto Blue Jays’ current plan to give him every day at-bats out of the gate came as news to Adam Lind, who believes he’s ready to make the most of such an opportunity after three years filled mostly with struggle.
“They say this is a game of adjustments and I really learned the meaning of that last year,” Lind said from his Florida home. “I really tried to be a mature hitter the second half of the season, hopefully those things carry on into next season.
“It goes back to some of the things I learned with Cito (Gaston) and actually applying them into at-bats, especially against left-handed relievers out of the bullpen. I got good at it, but I also knew because of my history the last two years I knew exactly what they were going to do.”
How he maintains it will determine how much rope he gets from GM Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons, who made the surprise revelation Monday at the winter meetings. Lind’s career splits are .283/.335/.502 versus right-handers and .220/.264/.343 versus lefties, numbers that diminished greatly the past few seasons.
The Blue Jays will likely want a right-handed complement to him for first base/DH, just in case, but Lind is adamant he’s made important evolutions as a player.
“Pitch selection and approach,” he said. “We’re a fastball hitting team and if the guy’s not throwing you any fastballs, it’s not going to do you any good. Instead of being stubborn and not take what they’re giving me, I was just seeking fastballs and swinging at bad pitches. Changing approach really helped me produce in big situations at the end of the games when I had to face those lefties. Even if I didn’t get a hit, I drew a few walks. …
“That was the weirdest feeling, having a different game plan up there and having it work. I have to use my head, and not be in the next half inning playing defence thinking, ‘Why wasn’t I smarter?’”
The Blue Jays need that to take, as a resurgent Adam Lind makes an already impressive lineup even more formidable. While there are those skeptical he can regain a form reminiscent of the one he had back during a brilliant 2009, Edwin Encarnacion offers a reminder of why it’s worth giving people another shot.
Either way, 2013 shapes up as an important year for Lind, as the first of three options on his contract must be decided upon after the season. He’s due $5 million next season with a $2 million buyout of his $7 million club option for 2014.
“It’s definitely weird with the possibility of next year at this time I could be a free agent or not a Blue Jay, but at the same time it’s not just me, it’s the whole team, we need a big year out of everybody, it’s a big year for the organization,” said Lind. “We’re going to have to win games and I’m doing my part right now to be as healthy and as strong as I can so I can play a full six months.
“It should be an exciting summer.”
Other news and notes around the winter meetings:
—Emilio Bonifacio hasn’t gotten the attention devoted to Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera, but the more people you talk to, the more people are impressed by the Blue Jays’ ability to acquire him. One source said three teams asked the Marlins about him before the blockbuster and were told he wasn’t in play, only to watch him get moved later. There are also those who believe he’ll supplant Maicer Izturis as the starter at second base during spring training, as his ability to be a catalyst atop the lineup and his energy on the basepaths will become too enticing to leave on the bench.
—The Oakland Athletics inquired about Yunel Escobar before the trade deadline last summer but became scared off by his reputation. But after more digging this winter, they now seem to think his issues may be overblown and have renewed their interest, possibly as a fallback in case free agent Stephen Drew prices himself out of their range. Those who know Escobar well insist he’s not a bad person, but that his social skills are awkward and he ends up misunderstood. Either way, the teams interested in him — there are reportedly a few — seem willing to overlook his faults, and the Marlins seem intent on dealing him and he seems resigned to another trade. On Tuesday, he told the Spanish-language El Nuevo Herald (translated and posted by the Florida Sun Sentinel): “I came here with a lot of excitement to play in front of Miami’s Latin fans, especially the Cuban ones, but in these moments I think the best for my career is to go somewhere else where I’m appreciated more. I think I have a lot to offer as a ballplayer, but you need to be wanted. I’m not feeling that here.”
—Alex Anthopoulos said the Blue Jays have yet to contact Pat Hentgen about their bullpen coach position, although there’s a sense he may be a front-runner for the job. Hentgen served in the position in 2011 before returning to his role as special assistant. “I guess he could, he’s done it, but I haven’t spoken to him about it,” said Anthopoulos. “We started talking a little bit about the bullpen role. If he ends up being a candidate, we haven’t really sat him down, talked to him about it, so I’m not sure yet. Obviously Pat’s a part of the organization, he’s always going to be a part of the organization. That would be one, if he was a guy we were going to consider, we’d have to sit down and talk about all of that stuff.”