WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Adam Lind often wanders into the Nationals clubhouse in skinny jeans and flashy sunglasses, a few tattoos showing, his face framed by a goatee. All of it combines to an intimidating presence, until of course one talks to Lind, who is rather soft-spoken and has faded into the background in the clubhouse during the first few weeks of his Nationals tenure.
“I never really thought what people think,” said Lind, asked about the disconnect between the loud image and softer personality. “I just live my life.”
Lind’s life has included 11 big league seasons, six 20-homer seasons and stops in Toronto, Milwaukee and Seattle. It began in Indiana, where he went to high school in a city of roughly 55,000, left to play college ball at the University of South Alabama, then got drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2004. Eventually, that oft-traveled route of Anderson, Ind., to Mobile, Ala., led him to nine seasons in Toronto, where he fell in love.
“I’ll always go back to Canada. I love that place,” Lind, whose wife is Canadian, said. Two of his three children were born there, too.
“That’s where I grew up. I matured a lot. I learned a lot about the world in Toronto,” Lind said. “My diet expanded tenfold. As a kid from Indiana, you’re eating meat and potatoes. All of a sudden I’m eating Thai food and high-end Chinese food. The real stuff.”
The Blue Jays traded Lind to Milwaukee before the 2015 season, and he spent 2016 with Seattle. Both teams spend spring training in Arizona, far from Lind’s offseason home in Tampa, and far from his adopted home in Toronto. Washington represents a solid middle ground, not too far from Canada, but with an easy flight to Tampa, too.
Then again, by his own admission, Lind did not have the luxury of prioritizing geography when choosing a team this offseason. The 33-year-old saw the market for big, power-hitting first baseman collapse at an inopportune time and therefore signed on with the Nationals for a role he is not used to: full-time bench duties.
Lind has played in at least 90 games in every season since 2009, and in at least 125 games in six of the past eight seasons. While he is used to platooning, he is typically the more-relied-upon member of the platoon, with a career .849 OPS against righties. Since 2009, only 21 players have a higher OPS against right-handed pitching than Lind does. All but one of them (Shin-Soo Choo) has been an all-star at least once. Most of them — like Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera and others — are MVP types. But unless Ryan Zimmerman struggles mightily, Lind seems unlikely to be part of a true platoon with the Nationals, and he knows it.
“Everyone’s counted on the roster, but I’m a bench piece, so I’m not quite as counted on,” Lind said. “The whole goal for me in spring training is to feel comfortable, and I’m starting to get to that point in the box and playing with the guys around me.”
Lind said he is getting to know Chris Heisey and Stephen Drew, the guys he assumes he will spend most of his time with during the season. He said he hasn’t asked them for tips about coming off the bench just yet, though his .309 average as a pinch hitter suggests he might not need many. The biggest adjustment so far, Lind said, is playing the second half of spring training games he used to start. Still, because the Nationals are trying to see what they have in him, Lind said he is getting more spring training at-bats than he usually does.
So far, the lefty is off to a slow start, his average hovering around .200, his big power stifled so far. Dusty Baker said the Nationals will have to evaluate Lind as much on track record as these few weeks of spring training action as they decide whether he will seize the backup first baseman spot Clint Robinson occupied since 2015.
“We know what Clint can do,” Baker said Wednesday. “We’ve heard what Lind can do.”
For now, they must wait and see, to figure out exactly who the kind-of quiet guy with the goatee is, and whether he can elevate their production off the bench this season.