01/10/11 10:37 AM EST
Lind confident about his evolution in the field
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
The transition from designated hitter began last month, when Lind flew to the Blue Jays' Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., to work with roving infield instructor Mike Mordecai. The pair went through a four-day crash course session on defensive mechanics, and according to Lind, the initial reports are good.
"We didn't have any timelines or guidelines of what we needed to do," said Lind, who was in Toronto this week to continue the work at an optional Blue Jays mini-camp at Rogers Centre. "We just went out there, had a good time and got a lot accomplished."
"When we can be with someone for an extended amount of hours like that, you can get a lot done. Four days may not seem like a whole lot, but when you practice for three to four hours out on the field without stopping, that is a lot."
The Blue Jays began experimenting with Lind at first base in 2010. He appeared in 11 games at the position, and while the sample size was small, it was enough to convince Toronto management that Lind was capable of learning how to play the position.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was especially impressed with Lind's strong hands around the base. That type of skill set is a key component of the position because it means the player has the ability to dig balls out of the dirt and handle any ground balls that come down the line.
Lind appears well equipped to handle that aspect of the job, but his footwork remains a work-in-progress.
"That has been the hardest thing so far," Lind said. "I've never really had any information given to me on how to play first base until that weekend in Florida. A lot of it is going to be instinctual after awhile. That's what I have to work on, making [the footwork] become part my instincts so I won't have to think about it."
The opening at first was created when the Blue Jays decided to part ways with veteran Lyle Overbay, who recently signed a free-agent contract with the Pirates. Anthopoulos opted not to acquire another first baseman and instead will go with Lind and former third baseman Edwin Encarnacion at the position in 2011.
Having defensive responsibilities every day will be a big change for Lind, who spent the majority of last season at designated hitter. The most time he has spent in the field occurred during the 2007 season, when he started 72 games in left field. The five-year veteran says he is looking forward to getting off the bench and not having to rely solely on his bat to make an impact.
"I'm really excited about getting the opportunity to be out on the field every day with the other eight guys," said Lind, who married longtime girlfriend and Toronto native Lakeyshia Bertie in November.
"It's going to be interesting. I'll probably get to know the guys around the infield a little bit better. My guys on the bench were usually the starting pitchers. I'll get to hang out with [second baseman Aaron] Hill a bit more and establish a line of communication on how to line up and what to do with certain players."
Lind will also head into next season looking for a bounce-back year at the plate. In 2009, he was arguably the Blue Jays' best hitter after posting a .305 average with 35 home runs and 114 RBIs. Those numbers earned him an American League Silver Slugger Award as well as a new four-year contract worth $18 million, with an additional three years and $20.5 million available through team options.
He regressed in 2010, though, hitting just .237 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs. Perhaps most troubling was that his on-base percentage dropped to .287 after entering the season with a career mark of .338.
Lind thinks that perhaps he tried to force the issue a little too much and will need to have a more patient approach in 2011 if he is going to find success.
"I just need to get a comfortable feel back in the box," Lind said. "Have a good rhythm, a good pace. That's what I've been working on over the winter, basically just slowing things down. I think that will increase the pitches that I see every at-bat, and I'll start swinging at better pitches."