By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
For the first time in more than two years, Adam Lind’s back feels whole again.
The former Highland star hit .301 in the month of September for the Toronto Blue Jays after coming off his second stint on the disabled list Aug. 26. Lind’s back problems began midway through the 2011 season and appeared again this July.
But he remained healthy throughout the final month of the season, and he believes his back trouble finally might be behind him.
“I feel really good,” Lind said during a recent phone interview. “We adjusted my workout plan and increased my flexibility. My back felt a lot better the last month of the season. I was swinging the bat with force again.”
It was a complicated and often frustrating year for Lind. He got off to an extremely slow start and was demoted to Triple A Las Vegas in May. After returning to the majors about a month later, Lind’s bat heated up before his back trouble struck again.
His strong finish brought his final batting average to .255, and he hit 11 home runs with 45 RBIs. Two of those homers and 16 RBIs came in September.
Lind said there were many reasons for his strong final month, not the least of which was the presence of Chad Mottola. While Lind was a rising prospect in the minor leagues, he crossed paths with Mottola on the downside of his career. The two struck up a friendship, and that bond was a huge benefit when Lind suddenly found himself playing in Las Vegas this summer.
Mottola was the Blue Jays’ roving minor league hitting instructor this year. When September rolled around, and the minor league seasons ended, he got a call up to the majors to finish out the season as an assistant to Toronto hitting coach Dwayne Murphy and again was reunited with Lind.
“It was nice to have an extra set of eyes on you,” Lind said of playing with two hitting coaches.
The experiment went so well, in fact, the Blue Jays are considering adding Mottola as a full-time major league assistant next year.
“Some teams have begun to do that,” Lind said. “And (Mottola) has worked with a lot of guys who will be in the majors next year.”
There are few certainties about the future in Toronto, however. The Blue Jays entered the season with high expectations but finished in fourth place in the American League East with a 73-89 record, 22 games behind the division champion New York Yankees.
Injuries to many key players — including Lind, Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie — contributed to the swoon, and a strong corps of minor league hitters still points to a bright future in Toronto.
Second-year manager John Farrell, however, is being pursued for the top job with the division-rival Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays have expressed interest in retaining him, but nobody knows how the situation ultimately will play out.
Lind said the saga will not affect his offseason. He’s watching the same news reports as fans, and he trusts general manager Alex Anthopoulos will make the best decision for the team.
Lind has the same faith about his own future. He’s entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, though the Blue Jays hold three team options through 2016.
But after struggling with injuries and at the plate through parts of the past three seasons, he realizes he might no longer be in Toronto’s plans.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the big leagues come opening day,” Lind said. “But I have no idea where that’ll be.”
If the decision was his alone, Lind would stay with the Jays. He enjoys living in Toronto, and he said he’s always respected fellow Anderson resident Carl Erskine’s opportunity to play with the same team throughout his career.
Erskine spent all 12 of his major league seasons with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1940s and ’50s.
“But that’s hard to do in baseball these days,” Lind said.
He’s been a big part of the Blue Jays’ rebuilding efforts for the past four seasons, and he’d love to be around to enjoy the fruits of that labor.
“I think the future’s very bright here,” Lind said. “That’s another reason I’d like to stay.”