It’s one Blue Jays off-season move that received Adam Lind’s blessing.
In between blockbuster trades that brought pitchers R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson as well as all-star shortstop Jose Reyes and others to Toronto, AAA hitting coach Chad Mottola was promoted to fill the same role with the big club.
Lind was hitting .227 last July 25 when he was told to work on his approach at the plate in the minor leagues and spent a month in Las Vegas with Mottola getting his head straight and his game back on track.
Lind returned to the Blue Jays and hit .301 over his final 35 games with three homers, 18 runs batted in and .341 on-base percentage. He managed only two homers over 103 at-bats in September and October but had earned the opportunity to keep his starting job at 2013 spring training.
“I have coached him, we’ve done everything,” said Mottola, who played with Lind in Toronto in 2006. “I know his personality and how to get him in the right position mentally to hit. Where he’s been at in the past [when problems arose] has been mental.”
Recently, Lind suggested that mixed messages from former manager John Farrell and one-time hitting coach Dwayne Murphy contributed to some of his struggles in 2012. Farrell preached patience at the plate while Murphy, now the Jays first base coach, preferred a more aggressive approach.
Toss in questions of Lind’s fitness level that surfaced last season and it’s enough for the Justin Morneau-to-Toronto trade rumours to heat up in the spring, but more on that later.
The time for excuses is running out for Lind, whom manager John Gibbons has said would play the bulk of games at first base against right- and left-handed pitching, despite the player’s .220 batting average and .264 on-base percentage against left-handers.
Lind is slated to hit fifth in a stacked batting order that will include Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and newcomers Melky Cabrera and Reyes. His future in Toronto also could hinge on his ability to stay healthy, something he has failed to do consistently in the past.
A long-term injury would probably force Anthopoulos to make a move for a power bat prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline if the team is in playoff contention.
Morneau, the Minnesota Twins’ first baseman from New Westminster, B.C., is also in the final year of his contract. He told FOXSports.com this week that he would prefer to remain in Minneapolis, where the team is in a rebuilding mode, but mentioned Toronto as a preferred destination if he was to move on.
Morneau missed most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons with concussion symptoms, a wrist injury and other ailments, but the early word from spring training is that he looks strong and healthy.
“If you win [in Toronto] you have the whole country behind you,” Morneau, the 2006 American League MVP, told FOXSports.com. “I grew up in Vancouver, and I was a Blue Jays fan. It’s nationwide. … It would be cool, but like I said: I would rather win here [in Minnesota].”
And Lind would rather stay healthy and keep his job but there are no guarantees this season.