LAKELAND, Florida - Adam Lind's important spring is underway, started under a sunny sky Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium.
With apologies to Mr. Marchant, no joking here, there is much to be determined about the role Lind will play with the 2013 Blue Jays. The 29-year-old either earns his manager's trust, plays everyday and produces, or is relegated to a platoon role facing only right-handed pitching.
"Ideally at the end of spring, we have a better idea whether that's his job or if we're going to go to a little platoon," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "I mean, those other guys are valuable to us and we're looking to get them at-bats and if we're stronger that way, we'll go that way – but hopefully not, we don't want to do that."
Lind had a good afternoon, going 2-2 with a single, a double and a sacrifice fly for his three plate appearances. His hits came off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez and Bruce Rondon, who is projected to be Detroit's closer. He saw only right-handers on Sunday, not the barometer with which he'll be measured for a full-time job.
"If we can match it up as best we can, we'll do that," said Gibbons on the subject of Lind getting repeated reps against left-handers. "There might be a game, too, he doesn't start but we'll keep him around, (to put him in) if they do bring in a lefty or something like that."
There is stark contrast in Lind's splits versus right-handed and left-handed pitching. Career against righties, Lind is a .282 hitter with an .836 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage.) When a left-hander is on the mound, the numbers plummet to .220/.607.
Lind is expected to get most of his playing time at designated hitter and is working to correct the imbalance. In years past, he's been susceptible to the sweeping nature of a southpaw's breaking pitch, often lunging at it with minimal success. His effort to fix the issue began last season when he was demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas and worked with current Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola.
"(Just) controlling my swing," said Lind. "Not swinging as hard as I can because that makes the pitches look better than they actually are."
Gibbons has options. Edwin Encarnacion is expected to get the bulk of the playing time at first base. Mark DeRosa and Rajai Davis are among the right-handed hitting bench players who could replace Lind against lefties. These decisions will not be made in February and Gibbons wants Lind to go out and just play ball.
"We want him to have a good spring, just really swing the bat like he's capable of (doing,") said Gibbons. "That's the big thing about early in spring, they're all in shape and they take their dead-arm (batting practice,) we call it. But still, we start facing that live pitching and some guys adjust quicker. That can take a little while."
Lind's best season was in 2009, when he hit 35 home runs, had 114 RBI and an OPS of .932. In three seasons since, Lind hasn't hit more than 26 home runs, driven in more than 87 runs or had an OPS higher than .734.