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Pinder ready to seize any role with A's in '18

Utility man's versatility is valuable asset for Melvin's lineup
MLB.com @JaneMLB

OAKLAND -- Chad Pinder is a man without a position. And that's OK.

Pinder proved his worth as a budding ultra-utility player during his rookie season, a role he learned not only to accept but embrace. He's a natural middle infielder with the athleticism and arm strength akin to an outfielder, and finding a permanent position isn't so much important to him as being able to play them all -- and play them all well.

OAKLAND -- Chad Pinder is a man without a position. And that's OK.

Pinder proved his worth as a budding ultra-utility player during his rookie season, a role he learned not only to accept but embrace. He's a natural middle infielder with the athleticism and arm strength akin to an outfielder, and finding a permanent position isn't so much important to him as being able to play them all -- and play them all well.

His bat got him to the big leagues, but his defense is helping him stay.

"Everyone asks me, 'What's going on, what's your role this year?' Honestly, I'm just ready to play any position.

"That is something that I cherish. I like to have that feeling, that I know I'm needed somewhere on the field, and there's a sense of pride in knowing that I can do that, and I can do it well. I can handle those positions and it's not like I'm going to go out there and be a liability."

Because of this, Pinder has the chance to be in manager Bob Melvin's lineup on a near-daily basis. Last year, Pinder became the first rookie in Oakland history to start at least one game at six positions -- shortstop, second base, DH and all three outfield spots -- and it's likely he'll be asked to play a seventh this season.

Video: HOU@OAK: Pinder makes a leaping catch at the wall

When Ryon Healy was shipped to the Mariners in November, subsequent chatter about the A's plans to move Khris Davis to a semi-permanent DH role surfaced. But not only had the A's lost their primary DH of 2017, they also gave up their backup first baseman.

Enter Pinder.

"I think the last time I played first base was in eighth grade," he said, "but throughout the year, I was taking ground balls there.

"There were situations where, if Ryon was DH'ing and then [Matt Olson] was at first base and God forbid something happened to him and I needed to go to first base so we didn't lose our DH, that was an option. That was definitely talked about."

Video: OAK@PHI: Pinder, Olson crush back-to-back home runs

The opportunity never arose, but the process of preparing for it began long ago, and Pinder has a perfect study partner in friend Olson.

"Honestly, there's no better person to take ground balls with than Ollie," Pinder said. "Just to watch him and get his take on different things, coming off the bag or whatnot. As good as Matt Chapman is at third base, Olson is neck-and-neck with him by position. Olson is the best first baseman I've ever played with. And I'm not taking anything away from Chapman, because Chappy's Chappy and he's incredible at third base, but Olson may be overlooked a little bit.

"So I think I should be able to take ground balls with him and just kind of watching him do what he does at first base helps me out tremendously."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.

 

Oakland Athletics, Chad Pinder