John Gibbons was fired as Toronto Blue Jays manager five years ago this week. And while it wasn’t a precondition of Cito Gaston agreeing to take Gibbons’s place, it was made clear to then-general manager J.P. Ricciardi that Gaston would be calling up Adam Lind from Triple-A and installing him as his left-fielder. It took all of two days, in fact.
Watch: Blue Jays 2, Rockies 0
Gaston, who replaced Gibbons on June 20, 2008, foresaw Lind as an everyday player. And although he was no bargain as a left-fielder, Lind walked away with the American League Silver Slugger Award as a 25-year-old designated hitter in 2009, before a spiral that saw him fall off the face of the baseball earth.
Lost at the plate and battling chronic back pain, he was a broken player – put on waivers at one point last season, viewed as maybe a platoon guy who would make $5-million (U.S.) this season and play up his trade value. Sotto voce, Lind told some people in spring training he didn’t expect to be a Blue Jay much longer, knowing the team faced a decision on whether to pick up a $7-million option for 2014 (the first of three options the team holds) or buy it out for $2-million.
Well, guess what? Gibbons is once again the Blue Jays manager and Adam Lind isn’t broken any longer.
In fact, there was Gibbons in his office Monday, at the helm of a team with a five-game win streak that was four games within .500 – the first step toward saving the 2013 season – talking about leaving Lind in the cleanup spot when Jose Reyes comes off the disabled list. That’s right: Reyes would lead off, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion would stay right where they are in the second and third spots, respectively, and Melky Cabrera would drop to fifth.
There is always a caveat with managers, of course.
But given how everybody around the Blue Jays says one of the keys to their resurgence is the stability of the lineup, that caveat would seem difficult to exercise.
Especially since Lind went into Monday’s first of a three-game interleague series against the Colorado Rockies hitting .403 (48-for-119) since May 10, raising his average from .238 to .350.
Especially since Lind now appears able to handle lefty pitching: he’s 13-for-28 (including an 0-for-3 night Monday) against lefties in a small sample size this season, but he has three extra-base hits against lefties and, last season, he had all of four in 89 at-bats while hitting .202 with an OPS of .503 against southpaws.
“I think I stopped treating facing left-handed pitching as being something bigger than it really is,” Lind said Monday.
The urge is to think Lind must have had some kind of Eureka! moment in the cage; that he must have discovered something at the age of 30 that unlocked the door much as Bautista did a few seasons ago.
But Lind and hitting coach Chad Mottola say it’s even more basic.
Lind says he stopped being stubborn; Mottola said Lind is staying in longer against lefties and not pulling off every two-seam fastball. That leaves Lind better able to track pitches, and Lind says his swing is less forceful, figuring it’s about “90 per cent” of the effort he typically expended in 2012.
Mottola smiles when that wisdom is relayed, adding he “doesn’t have a gauge” to measure it.
Translation? If that makes Lind happy, it’s all good. The numbers say he is swinging less and making more contact and if you buy into the old-timey idea that doubles are an indication of a hitter’s effectiveness, Lind had as many doubles (a team-high 14) in 180 at-bats as he did in 321 at-bats last season.
“One of my goals was to be consistent at least five of six months,” Lind said, before facing Jorge De La Rosa, the first of two lefty starters the Rockies will run out. “When you’re consistent for all six months, that’s when the accolades come. Us regular players … we try to be consistent five of six.”
If the regular Adam Lind is the Adam Lind of 2009, things really will have come full circle in these parts.