The demotion of Adam Lind to Triple-A Las Vegas is a significant setback for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Forget Lind’s contract – two years and $10-million (U.S.) remaining, as well as club options for 2014, 2015 and 2016. That’s relative chump change. This is not akin to buying out B.J. Ryan or foisting Vernon Wells’s monstrous financial obligation on someone else.
Reflect instead on the notion that Vladimir Guerrero could be in a Blue Jays uniform before Lind gets back into one, now that the club has fast-tracked the 37-year-old free agent’s estimated time of arrival and will get him into a minor-league game Friday instead of next week. “Quickly shortened up,” is how Blue Jays manager John Farrell described plans for Guerrero.
More to the point, recall that Lind was supposed to be the cleanup hitter this season, the man behind Jose Bautista, as well as the most authoritative left-handed bat in Farrell’s lineup. Recall that whenever the Blue Jays’ need for another middle-of-the-order bat was discussed over the winter, the team said it was reluctant to go big for a hitter because the improved production over Lind wouldn’t offset the cost – either prospects traded or money invested in a free agent.
Lind isn’t a kid. He’s 28, and his being optioned to the minors to work on his confidence – to “take a deep breath,” in the words of Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos – suggests he’s the next Aaron Hill. Soon, he could be someone else’s problem.
Lind was booed frequently through the first three games of the current homestand. For now, Edwin Encarnacion will be at first, and Yan Gomes, the first Brazilian-born major-leaguer, was at third base Thursday night while Brett Lawrie serves his four-game suspension. Omar Vizquel is available to play defence at third in late innings, while Bautista could come in from right field to replace Encarnacion.
Gomes said the story of how he became a baseball player in his native land is best told by his father, but absent the elder Gomes, the son gave it his best shot.
On a trip to the market in Sao Paulo, Gomes’s father ran into a man who talked to him about baseball. The family moved to the United States, and in high school, Gomes switched to catcher from shortstop. A 10th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2010, Gomes, who was J.P. Arencibia’s backup at the University of Tennessee, was one of the surprises of spring training, and at Triple-A Las Vegas, he played 10 games at third base, 12 as a catcher, nine at first base and two as a designated hitter.
Gomes, who hit .359 with 12 doubles, five home runs and 22 runs batted in in Vegas, could recall playing only one other game on artificial turf.
“In college against Louisville … and I was a designated hitter that day,” he said with a chuckle. He was given a crash course with infield instructor and third base coach Brian Butterfield before Thursday’s game against the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre. (Predictably, the Yankees’ leadoff hitter, Derek Jeter, bunted on the first pitch of the game. It rolled to pitcher Drew Hutchison instead of Gomes, but message delivered.)
Concern about Gomes’s abilities to man the hot corner on artificial turf are mitigated, Farrell said, by his soft, quick hands, plus the experience he gained on some of the rock-hard natural surfaces in the Pacific Coast League.
Lind likely thought he’d seen the end of minor-league parks, but he’s been unable to stop a rot that set in during the second half of 2011. Lind went from being overaggressive to passive.
“The pendulum swung too much,” said Farrell, who as pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox remembers Lind as a player who “when he got a fastball in the zone, rarely missed it.”
When asked what’s missing from then to now, Farrell shrugged and said: “Number one, I’d say confidence.”