TORONTO - The second row of the interview room inside Minute Maid Stadium in April 2010 had a strangely dressed group of attendees.
Aaron Hill, Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum and Vernon Wells received permission to skip batting practice before the exhibition game against the Houston Astros to attend an announcement of a four-year, $18-million US contract extension for Adam Lind.
Blue Jays teammates applauded Lind when he entered the room and someone yelled out “Sleepy,” Lind’s nickname.
With Lind being demoted to triple-A Thursday, only Romero remains.
“I remember that day,” Romero said on a day Lind was sent packing, third baseman Brett Lawrie’s appeal of his four-game suspension was dropped and the Jays replaced Lawrie with Yan Gomes and Lind with ... no one.
DH Edwin Encarnacion moved to first and back-up outfielder Ben Francisco was the DH as the Jays go with 24 players until Monday, when Lawrie’s suspension for helmet-hipping plate ump Bill Miller ends.
Lind was hitting .341 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs on June 16 of last season. Since last year’s all-star break, he has a .193 average with 13 homers and 46 RBIs.
Both general manager Alex Anthopoulos, on a conference call en route to Lansing to see Noah Syndergaard pitch, and manager John Farrell indicated more moves would come Monday when the Jays visit the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete’s.
Could Vladimir Guerrero, who will get 10 at-bats at extended spring training Friday, his first since being signed, possibly be ready to DH by Monday? Could the Jays promote David Cooper from Vegas or Mike McDade from double-A New Hampshire?
Or could there be a deal for Los Angeles Angel Mike Trumbo, a first baseman without a position since the arrival of Albert Pujols? Unlikely.
Lind began the season hitting clean-up, was dropped to eighth and was hitting .186 with three home runs, 11 RBIs and an OPS of .586. He’ll play his first game as Vegas hosts Memphis on Sunday.
“Adam cares as much as anyone,” Anthopoulos said. “It was wearing on him. You could see it with his play. I know he hasn’t slept well. It doesn’t always take a player snapping a bat over his knee or smashing a water cooler to show that he’s upset or frustrated. Adam has his own way of showing it. It’s weighed on him.”
The Jays looked at numbers as well as Lind’s body language and decided trying to give Lind a chance to clear his mind in the fresh air of the desert.
Over the years, we’ve seen dozens of hitters return to their minor-league coach or college coach or pop with whom they had their first success. To our knowledge, the Jays didn’t allow former manager Cito Gaston, seated on the 300 level most nights, to work with Lind. Nothing against hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, but sometimes a different voice has a different result.
Lind earned silver slugger honours in the 2009 season, with Gaston managing and Murphy as the hitting instructor, as he batted .305, with 35 homers and 114 RBIs.
Where has the Lind of 2009 gone?
“Pitchers made adjustments,” said Farrell. “He was too aggressive and that took him out of the strike zone. Then he became too passive ... the pendulum swung too far.”
Lind had four years, 129 days service in the majors. Another 43 days would have given him five years and the Jays would not have been able to demote him to the minors without his permission.
Anthopoulos said he hoped Lind’s trip to Vegas would be as quick and as productive as Encarnacion’s in 2010, when the infielder worked hard and now carries the Jays’ offence.
While some players would roll their eyes at The Score’s Jerry Dee, Lind would crack up at a straight-faced Dee interviewing Roy Halladay. Lind would read every word in the four Toronto papers and would make a good editor when he’s finished playing.
Waiting to talk to Brandon Morrow after Wednesday’s win over the Yanks, I stopped by Lind’s locker. He mentioned my weight loss.
I told him I was expecting a contract any day to sing in the next Weight Watchers commercial with Donna Hudson.
“You mean Jennifer Hudson,” Lind said.
He then told me about his parents, who had too many close friends die. So both parents decided to become vegans.
“They lost 40 pounds each by changing their eating habits, without exercise,” Lind said.
We don’t think it will be the last conversation we’ll ever have with Adam Lind.