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Pinder could be A's permanent right fielder

Drafted as an infielder, versatile rookie flourishing in outfield
MLB.com @JaneMLB

BOSTON -- During a time when so much noise has been made about Chad Pinder's versatility, sparking conversation about his Ben Zobrist-esque qualities, the A's rookie may quietly be finding a permanent home in right field.

Pinder made his fifth consecutive start at the position in Thursday's 6-2 loss at Fenway Park and his 22nd in 27 starts since returning from the disabled list on July 30.

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BOSTON -- During a time when so much noise has been made about Chad Pinder's versatility, sparking conversation about his Ben Zobrist-esque qualities, the A's rookie may quietly be finding a permanent home in right field.

Pinder made his fifth consecutive start at the position in Thursday's 6-2 loss at Fenway Park and his 22nd in 27 starts since returning from the disabled list on July 30.

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No longer is he running around the middle infield or trying out center. The situation is twofold; shortstop and second base are occupied by other tenants these days, and center field, the A's say, is a better project for another time.

Then there's this: Pinder has turned out to be quite good in right field, where he's making above-average plays on a regular basis.

"At our park, especially in day games, right field is about as tough of a position as you can play, and he makes it look pretty easy," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "For a guy that's basically been a middle infielder his entire career, to be as comfortable and good as he is in right field is a testament to how hard he's worked to get to this point."

Pinder was drafted as a third baseman, and then he spent the majority of his Minor League career in the middle infield. But he's always boasted the necessary tools of an outfielder, particularly a strong arm. So when A's bench coach Mark Kotsay, who is on an indefinite leave of absence, approached him the night of May 6 about playing right field against the Tigers the next day, Pinder happily took on the assignment.

Video: HOU@OAK: Pinder deposits a solo homer to left

"He said, 'Come in early tomorrow,'" Pinder recalled recently, "and that was that.

"An infielder's dream is to go out there and make a diving play or throw a guy out at home. Infielders are always saying, 'I would do anything to go out there and throw somebody out.' And now I have an opportunity to do that, so it's cool."

Even in high school, Pinder remembers taking batting practice with his dad and two brothers, "and I'd be in the outfield picking up balls and throwing them in as far as I could.

"To have that in my back pocket, I always knew was good. Even in the Minor Leagues, there were some times I thought about asking, 'Hey, can I go out there just to get some reps?' But it never lined up to where we needed that to happen. I was always either playing short or second."

Now, the opposite is true. Marcus Semien is entrenched at shortstop, and second baseman Jed Lowrie will eventually be replaced by Oakland's No. 1 prospect, Franklin Barreto. But Pinder, who brings a nice supply of power to the table, has made a case to stay in the lineup, and the A's have the flexibility to experiment with him in the outfield.

"He looks really comfortable out there," Melvin said. "And as comfortable as he's looked, he gets better and better out there. He's got the throwing arm for it, and he can obviously swing the bat. The potential for us to keep him in one position is there, but it just depends on the complement of guys we have next year. The fact that he can play multiple positions, the middle of the infield, certainly increases his chances to get in there, but we've really liked what we've seen from him in right field."

Matt Joyce was the primary right fielder for much of the season before Pinder's emergence, and he's expected back next year to finish out a two-year contract. Joyce can also play left field, and while Khris Davis can shift from left to designated hitter, those duties have mostly belonged to Ryon Healy of late. This is a problem to be solved later on, but Pinder, who has slugged 14 home runs in 80 games, is making it a good one to have.

"His power, usually when you have a corner-outfield spot, especially in right, you want some of that, and he definitely has that," Melvin said. "He has the ability to be that guy, to move around, but I'm not certain that's where he's going to be. There's a good chance he ends up in one spot."

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

Oakland Athletics, Chad Pinder