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Pinder better conditioned to serve utility role

All-purpose player focusing on leg conditioning, adding speed
MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- Chad Pinder's grab bag of gloves befits his growing responsibilities. The A's all-purpose player lives a nomadic existence on the field, roaming from one position to the next on request.

Pinder was stationed in left field in Friday's spring opener and sent to second base on Saturday. He'll be back on the left side soon enough -- at third base or shortstop.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Chad Pinder's grab bag of gloves befits his growing responsibilities. The A's all-purpose player lives a nomadic existence on the field, roaming from one position to the next on request.

Pinder was stationed in left field in Friday's spring opener and sent to second base on Saturday. He'll be back on the left side soon enough -- at third base or shortstop.

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Meanwhile, a shipment including a first baseman's glove is expected to land at the A's spring complex any day now. It has Pinder's name on it.

Last year, Pinder made at least one start at six different positions and even played right field and shortstop in the same game. This year, chances are he'll be asked to take his turn at every spot but pitcher and catcher, a roving role that requires more than a versatile skillset.

Physically, the demands of Pinder's job can be taxing. A hamstring strain cost him more than five weeks as a rookie last season, and he was generally banged up more times than not.

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To combat these issues, Pinder didn't stray from a precise plan put in place by A's strength and conditioning coach Josh Cuffe this winter. He also incorporated postural restoration work, correctional exercises designed for improved posture and, subsequently, performance.

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"Normally he gives me some leeway," Pinder said, "but the past two years I've gotten banged up a little, so I told him I'm just going to do exactly what you say."

A primary focus was leg conditioning. In turn, Pinder picked up some speed.

"Jumping from the outfield to the infield, I need to make sure that my legs are in shape," he said. "It may not be a lot of speed added, but my legs are a little more conditioned for that. I think it was a little bit of a shock to my body last year. Infield is more side to side and when you're in the outfield you're going full sprint. It's just a different action, so Cuffe said, 'I think it would be really beneficial if you work on your speed work, if you work on extra running,' which I did, and I feel really good right now.

"I feel more in shape. I'm not as tired during the workouts."

Video: OAK@CWS: Pinder flashes the leather on double play

Added strength, more so than added stolen bases, was the end goal, but Pinder recognizes the potential for both now. He swiped just two bags last year and reached double-digit totals just once in the Minors -- compiling 12 with Class A Advanced Stockton in 2014.

He was also caught stealing nine times that year.

"That's a terrible percentage," Pinder said, laughing. "Just terrible."

Pinder was running for the heck of it, a strategy he's since refined.

"For a guy like me, I'm never going to be blazing fast, but anything extra helps," he said. "I have to pick and choose my spots. We have a lot of speed on this team, plus speed. My value as a baserunner is going to be things people don't see, taking third base and putting myself in scoring position or scoring from second base on a base hit."

"It doesn't surprise me that Pinder wants to add to the facets of his game," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's continually trying to get better in all phases. We have a lot of guys that are average to average-plus runners that, if they educate themselves when they can steal some bases and are aggressive going first to third, we can have a little bit of a different impact."

Working smarter, not harder, will be key for Pinder, who is more at ease with his varied routine this spring as he approaches his 26th birthday. The A's do their part through constant communication, alerting Pinder when and where he's playing the night before each game.

"Now it's just me learning myself and my body to move forward and keep it healthy and not overwork it," he said.

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

Oakland Athletics, Chad Pinder