01/06/10 10:00 AM EST
Lind not keen on batting cleanup
Gaston likely to have outfielder hit third or fifth in 2010
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
"There's just something funky about that four-hole," Lind said with a nervous laugh recently.
Last year, Gaston made it no secret that he hoped to shift Lind into the fourth slot of the batting order for 2010. During December's Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, Gaston changed his tune. Gaston said he'd try Lind in the cleanup spot during Spring Training, but the young hitter might ultimately hit elsewhere come Opening Day.
The two obviously have talked.
"He's just never really hit well in the fourth spot," Gaston said. "If that's in his head, then it's not a good place to put him. We have to find somewhere else to put him."
Asked how long he's had issues as a cleanup hitter, Lind chuckled.
"Forever," he replied without hesitation.
On the Major League stage, Lind's overall numbers as a fourth hitter aren't pretty, even if the sample size is small. In six games in that role, the left-handed hitter has posted a .240 average with six hits in 25 trips to the plate. The statistics take an even uglier turn upon closer inspection.
Last year, Gaston placed the 26-year-old Lind in the cleanup spot for a game against the Angels on June 4. Lind responded by going 5-for-5 with three doubles, helping him tie a franchise record with a hit in eight consecutive plate appearances.
Remove that one performance and Lind has gone 1-for-20 in his career in the fourth hole.
"I went 5-for-5, so it was like, 'Oh, I guess it's just something I had to deal with and get over,'" Lind said. "Then, in the next three games, I didn't get another hit. I don't know what it is. My whole life, I've never had success in the four-hole -- I don't know why. It's just not a position that I really like."
In a three-game Interleague series against Florida from June 12-14, Lind went 0-for-12 and did not reach base once as Toronto's cleanup hitter. In 2008, Gaston tried Lind in the fourth hole in a contest against the Indians on Aug. 9 and he went 0-for-4 in the batter's box. Lind's only other game in that role came on Sept. 30, 2007, against the Rays. He went 1-for-4.
Given Lind's overall showing -- he finished 2009 hitting .305 with 35 homers, 46 doubles and 114 RBIs en route to an American League Silver Slugger Award -- it stands to reason that his performance would even out over a long stint as a fourth hitter. Even so, Gaston might not want to take that chance if it continues to seem like Lind has problematic phobia about the role.
Gaston's plan was to shift second baseman Aaron Hill and Lind from the second and third spots, respectively, to the third and fourth holes in 2010. Considering Lind's history in the cleanup spot, Gaston may decide to keep him in the third or fifth spot. The Blue Jays' manager will use the preseason to sort out the makeup of the lineup.
"We'll experiment with it and see what we have in Spring Training, see if they're comfortable with it," Gaston said. "I don't think it's going to bother Aaron too much, but Lind, it's kind of in his head a little bit. That spot is not too good for him, so I don't want to leave him in that spot if he feels that way."
Lind is willing to take on any role, though, even Gaston feels batting fourth is the best solution.
He'd just prefer to hit somewhere else.
"It really doesn't matter. I'll hit anywhere," said Lind, who then paused and laughed again. "Except the four-hole. I'll hit fifth. I'll hit third, second, sixth -- it's really not that big of a deal. There's just something about that spot in the lineup. I mean, if he puts me in there, I'm not going to complain. I'll go out there and do my best.
"There's just something weird about that spot and I need to get over it."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.