OAKLAND — The arrival of Kendrys Morales has solved one of the Oakland Athletics’ more glaring problems entering 2019: How to survive without Gold Glove and 29-home run hitter Matt Olson for the first month of the season. The trade that brought Morales to the A’s, though, means decreased playing time for one Chad Pinder.
An infielder by trade and an outfielder by necessity, Pinder has played all four infield positions and all four outfield spots over his two-plus seasons with Oakland, and was going to be a part of the first base platoon with Olson out. He’d also play second on days when Jurickson Profar played first, as he would split time with Mark Canha.
Pinder has played in three of the A’s five games headed into Sunday, at three different positions. The Morales trade, manager Bob Melvin said on Sunday, means that Profar will be Oakland’s second baseman from here on out, and while that may spell fewer consistent at-bats for Pinder, it hasn’t dulled his outlook, either on the field or off.
“He wants to play,” said manager Bob Melvin, “but he understands. He’s about as much of a team guy as we have here, so he understands that right now, he’s going to play some left, he’ll pick up everybody at certain position on days off. He’ll get certain starts like [Mark] Canha.”
“That’s just what we do,” said Pinder, who started in left on Sunday. “It’s easy when you know that’s what it’s going to be.”
Pinder — who takes grounders at second before most games and played there in college — has hit .247 in his 223 big league games across parts of four seasons with the A’s, with 29 home runs and 74 RBIs. He’s played 32 games at shortstop (where he got his first major action in place of an injured Marcus Semien), 16 at third, 51 at second and 116 in the outfield.
“If I’m going to play shortstop or play third, they give me a couple days’ notice,” Pinder said. “Bob does a really good job of doing that. I’ll take my ground balls there if I know I’m going there in the next couple of days. I end up in the outfield, roaming around, trying to get some reads.”
Once Semien got back in 2017, the club asked Pinder if he could play outfield. That day, Mark Kotsay took Pinder out in right field the morning of May 7, a day game against the Detroit Tigers.
“We plucked up some grass where I needed to stand,” Pinder said. “We marked off on the wall where the standard depth is, and lined up with second base, plucked some grass. I’m not so sure Clay [Wood, head groundskeeper] liked that, but I needed a reference, because I hadn’t played out there.”
He’s since played 44 games in right with a more-than-respectable .988 fielding percentage (where he’s worth two defensive runs saved above average) and 68 games in left (where he’s worth nine defensive runs saved above average).
“You look at guys like Ben Zobrist, and especially Marwin Gonzalez — that guy plays literally everywhere [and] Kiké Hernandez, those are the guys that I look to, to try and model myself after,” Pinder continued. “Marwin, I’ve seen that guy play every single position at an elite level, and that’s something that you don’t see very often … A lot of guys, you say they’re serviceable, but Marwin, Zobrist, Kiké, they’re exceptional at every position they play. That’s something I’m trying to get to.”
Pinder may wind up playing everyday, just at a different position. “That’s the goal, truthfully,” he said on Friday.
Even though his role may have been diminished before it was even carved out this season, Pinder is still arguably one of the most active players in the local community on the team. His work last year with the School of Imagination won him the team’s Roberto Clemente Award, and he’s continuing in the role bequeathed to him by Stephen Vogt.
When the team comes back from its swing through Houston and Baltimore, Pinder will host the school’s children and their families in a clutch of seats down the left field line the first Sunday of next homestand.
“Sunday day games, we’re going to bring them out onto the field, their whole families,” Pinder said. “It’ll be multiple games. It’s usually every Sunday. The last two and a half months or so, we’ve set all that stuff up.”
— The A’s may have Blake Treinen available in the series finale, the day after he threw 25 pitches in a five-out save against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
— Chris Bassitt threw all of his pitches ina 40-pitch bullpen on Sunday. He was struck by a line drive during the team’s trip to Japan, and is on the injured list with a shin contusion.
“I know he felt really good today,” Melvin said. “We talked today about whether he needs to see some hitters next. That’s probably the next step. Hasn’t been finalized yet, but I’m guessing that’s where the next step will go.”
He would still throw with the A’s, most likely, Melvin said, rather than go on a minor league rehab assignment.
— The Boston Red Sox, who come to town for a four-game series starting Monday, will be throwing three lefties, meaning that Canha will get the lion’s share of starts at first base, with the switch-hitting Morales coming off the bench.
“Being a DH, it’s like pinch hitting, so we’ll pick some prime spots for him,” Melvin said.
— Aaron Brooks — who made his first Opening Day roster in his career after throwing six solid innings in a rain-shortened Bay Bridge Series win over the Giants — will get his first start on Monday against left-hander David Price.
“He’s got a mid-90s, upper-90s fastball and two good offspeed pitches right now, would love to see him get off to a good start,” Melvin said. “He’s got a good changeup, a good breaking ball. For a guy that’s had a lot of success in the minor leagues, to finally figure it out at the big league level, I think the last start for him was important, because that was their big league lineup.”
— It was Price who, in 2015, bought terrycloth robes for his Toronto Blue Jays teammates, including new A’s starter Marco Estrada. Estrada, who loved his robe so much that he rarely went a day without wearing it, bought a set for the A’s before the season began. Judging by how many players have worn them almost constantly in the clubhouse, they’ve been a big hit. Liam Hendriks even did an on-camera interview wearing his before Opening Day.