Adams to be a useful utility man for Jays
Ability to play infield, outfield helps him stay in Majors
TORONTO -- When the Blue Jays summoned Russ Adams from Triple-A Las Vegas, they were recalling a familiar face. Adams has been up and down with the Jays several times over the past five seasons.
But the Adams the Blue Jays are getting in 2009 has a bit of a different look. While Adams has spent most of his time in the Majors since 2004 playing shortstop, this year manager Cito Gaston plans to use Adams in both the infield and the outfield.
"He can play in left field, he can play right," Gaston said. "He can play third base too. He could turn out to be real valuable."
Adams used his time in the Minors with Triple-A Syracuse last season to improve his defensive versatility. For the first time in his professional career, Adams played in the outfield in 2008, spending 45 games in right field and 26 in left.
"I've gotten more used to being out there -- it's a little different," Adams said. "It's probably still a little bit of a work in progress, but I do feel pretty comfortable out there. I've had enough time to have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing."
While most of Adams' Major League appearances have been as a shortstop or second baseman, he is unlikely to spend much time at either position this year. Jays shortstop Marco Scutaro and second baseman Aaron Hill have impressed with both their gloves and their bats and Gaston will not want to take them out of the lineup any time soon. The Jays also have defensive whiz John McDonald on their bench as the team's backup shortstop, and McDonald can play second base as well.
Instead, Adams will find himself filling a role Scutaro has played for most of his big league career -- that of the defensively versatile utility player able to fill in at multiple positions as circumstances dictate.
Adams felt that working to learn different positions at the Minor League level would help make him a more valuable player in the Majors, and would help his chances of getting back to the big leagues and staying there.
"It was ... just trying to branch out a little bit and learn some different things and be able to play in some different spots to increase your value a little bit," Adams said. "Just being able to play in a lot of different areas, a lot of different spots on the field is going to do nothing but help me, especially in the situation I'm in right now -- just to get in the lineup in any way I can, whether it's in the infield or in the outfield, is definitely helpful for me."
Gaston agreed that defensive versatility may be the key to success at the Major League level for Adams.
"He's a pretty good hitter," Gaston said. "I think to stay up here and play at this level he's going to have to play some positions, unless he just really gets out to a great start and nails that spot."
Of Adams' three starts so far since being recalled on June 21, one has been in left field and two have been as the team's designated hitter.
While Adams -- a career .249 hitter who has hit ninth for the Jays this year -- is certainly not a prototypical DH, Gaston sees Adams and Adam Lind, who has played left field and DH'd for the Jays this year, as defensive equals in the outfield and plans to ensure they both get playing time there.
"Just kind of rotating those guys around a little bit as far as playing the outfield and DHing," Gaston said. "They're probably about the same out there [defensively]. They're getting better all the time. Lind's getting better all the time out there."
Gaston added that Adams could play right field to give Alex Rios a day off. Adams could also fill in for third baseman Scott Rolen, who gets regular rest, but Gaston's preference is to put Adams in the outfield.
"If I need to use him [at third base], he's available to play there," Gaston said, "but right now I prefer to keep him in the outfield as much as I can."
Erika Gilbert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.