Lind hoping for fresh start with new coaching staff
Slugger counting on end of mixed messages about hitting approach
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays have a new coaching staff in place, and Adam Lind is optimistic that means the days of receiving mixed messages have come to an end.
Toronto's first baseman/designated hitter has spent the past couple of years receiving conflicting words of wisdom. In one corner, he was being told to become more patient at the plate -- while in the other, he was advised to be more aggressive.
With new manager John Gibbons now in charge and hitting coach Chad Mottola being promoted from Triple-A, there appears to be more of an emphasis on having one clear voice. That's something Lind is more than happy to embrace.
"You guys were around the last couple of years," Lind said to a group of reporters on Saturday afternoon. "... You have a manager [John Farrell] telling you one thing, who was a pitcher. It makes it tough because he was from Boston, where they were very selective and things like that.
"Coming up through this organization, it wasn't something we preached or taught at the lower levels. That's what he wanted to see -- and then to have a hitting coach like [Dwayne Murphy], who's an aggressive-type hitting coach, sometimes you get a little confused on who you want to please."
The leadership styles of Farrell and Gibbons couldn't be any more different. Farrell is a micromanager, who involves himself in virtually every aspect of the ballclub. He could speak with as much knowledge about what's happening in the Minor Leagues as he would with the big league pitching staff and everyday lineup.
In some ways, that can be very beneficial. But in other aspects, it can also lead to problems. The issue last year was that Farrell put a strong emphasis on being patient and increasing on-base percentage, while Murphy preferred the "grip it and rip it" approach that was favored by previous manager Cito Gaston.
Having two conflicting voices made it difficult for players to decide which person to put their trust in. Farrell was the one who decided what the lineup would be every day, but Murphy was technically the one responsible for the performance of the hitters. With the styles so different, it became challenging to decide which voice should be listened to the most.
Gibbons takes a vastly different approach. He prefers to be more hands off, and allows his coaching staff to perform the task it was hired to do. He plans on giving Mottola free rein, and while Murphy is still part of the staff as a first-base coach, the majority of his workload will now focus on baserunning and outfield defense.
"One thing about baseball is, everyone has hit, everyone has their own opinion and everyone feels like they can fix everybody," said Mottola, who spent four years as a Minor League hitting coach. "Everybody has good intentions. But one thing we're going to concentrate on this year is having one message -- so there is no mixed message, there's not anybody trying to sneak in and be like 'Hey, I know you've done this.'
"With Adam, I played with him, I coached him, we've done everything, so we kind of know his personality and how to get him in the right position mentally to hit. ... I think that's where he was at in the past, it was kind of mental."
Lind went through his own personal nightmare at the start of the 2012 season. He began the year hitting .186 with just three homers and a paltry .586 OPS through the first 34 games of the year.
The native of Indiana was then sent to the Minor Leagues and spent more than a month toiling for Triple-A Las Vegas. The one benefit to the demotion was that he was able to spend an extended amount of time working with Mottola on his approach at the plate.
Once he came back, the numbers did show noticeable improvement. Lind managed to hit .296 with eight homers and 34 RBIs while recording an .812 OPS. The hope is that the progression will carry over into the 2013 season, where he has the potential to be somewhat of a wild card for a team with a deep and balanced lineup.
Lind did want to emphasize that he has no ill-will toward Farrell and the problems that stemmed from their working relationship. There certainly wasn't any malicious attempt by the club's former manager to undercut his first baseman, but it's equally as clear that the two were never on the same page.
"It was all in good faith and respect, but he would have his things out of me that he would want to see -- and he would tell me that," said Lind, who is a career .265 hitter. "You'd go to the cage and try to do your work or after an at-bat during the game and he would have more advice to give you. It would just get your mind thinking.
"At the end of the day, it came down to me. I was the one given the opportunity to play. It's on me, it's not on the manager. That's in the past, and now we're going to go forward with a very good lineup that we have this year."