Jays have Lind's back — under control
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
|Toronto Blue Jays batter Adam Lind watches his game winning single against the Los Angeles Angels during the 10th inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto Sept. 19, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)
On the first day of spring training last season, Adam Lind was asked what it was going to feel like, transitioning from a role spent largely as a DH to everyday duties at first base.
“I really don’t know what’s in store,” said Lind that day. “Ask me in four months or maybe at the end of the season. I know I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.”
On that day, the first baseman’s glove in his locker was pristine as he went to the diamond to field the first of thousands of groundballs and throws that would take him through the learning curve of the 2011 season.
By the time the season was over, Lind had proven himself more than capable, but at what cost? The workload that had him out on back diamonds fielding groundballs off the bat of infield instructor Mike Mordecai or Jays third base coach Brian Butterfield, extended his work day, both early and late.
All that work may have been responsible, at least in part, for lower back problems that cost him three weeks of the season and quietly plagued him the rest of the way. Lind himself disputes that the back problems had anything to do with an offensive season that fell below expectations but the back, in combination with all the extra time he spent on defence, as opposed to refining his swing, has to have had an effect.
“Maybe a little bit,” Lind concedes. “I don’t think it affected my swing. I would have the odd pain along those two vertebrae, sometimes a burning feeling, sometimes a numbness. But I don’t think it hampered my flexibility.”
Lind still hit 26 home runs and drove in 87 runs but had an OPS of only .734, almost 200 points lower than his 2009 OPS.
“I don’t know if the extra work was necessarily why I got injured but I think it caught up with me in September. After several months of hard work and then you throw in all the games and the early work when I would go out with Johnny Mac and work on things with him ... it’s a lot.”
Wednesday, Lind was one of the last players out of the training room, looking like he’d just gone 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali in his prime. He’d just undergone a deep muscle massage.
“I feel good right now but what I learned last year is that I’ve got to maintain the fitness and treatments,” he said. “It’s not just working out but it’s things like massages — painful massages. It’s not all fun and games. It’s hard work but it’s worth it when you can get on the field every day.”
The emphasis is on “every day.” That’s Lind’s aim but manager John Farrell may have a different view. Given Lind’s back and perhaps with an eye to his anaemic stats against lefthanded pitching, there is an expectation that Edwin Encarnacion will get a bit more work at first base than last year.
“We’re not looking at a platoon situation at first base,” said Farrell. Lind is our first baseman.
“But once we get into the season and we begin to monitor his off-days, that’s when Edwin will come into the picture. Right now, Adam Lind is our first baseman but there’s going to be off-days required for everyone.”
Rightly or wrongly, the entire organization, right from Paul Beeston at the top, down to the kids who clean the players shoes in the clubhouse, is imbued with an optimism not seen in these parts for many years. Lind isn’t immune to the sense that the team may be ready to pull a fast one on the three beasts of the east — Boston, New York and Tampa.
“It’s been awhile,” says Lind. “In ‘07 and ‘08 there was a lot of excitement as well but that was a team put together through free agency or at least by guys who came from other organizations.
“On this team there are a few people who have come as free agents and didn’t come up through the system but we’ve all spent some time together and we don’t have a big free agent that came in from a different organization.
“That might be why, inside the clubhouse, there is a lot of excitement. We all get along. But what is more important, we don’t have the big egos so we can really get on each other without anybody taking it personally.”
As far as his own contribution goes, Lind is determined to be better. He may not be able to return to the heights he reached in 2009 but a level of consistency will do just fine.
“I just want to do the best I can to protect Jose, whether I’m in the fourth or fifth hole, or whatever spot I’m in,” he said. “Whoever is in that spot will be a big factor in how well our season goes.”
Lind will get a fair shot at being that guy.