On a Healthy Athletics' Roster, Playing Time Might be Tough to Come by for Chad Pinder

John Hickey

The good news for the Oakland A’s, 12 days before their Major League Baseball season starts, is that everybody’s healthy.

Typically, that won’t last. While it does, the A’s are going to have to get inventive in finding ways to get Chad Pinder playing time.

Pinder is an infielder. He’s an outfielder. He hits with some power. Of his 124 games played in 2019, 26 times he appeared as a pinch-hitter. In a simulated game Saturday, he homered and singled.

As a team, the A’s finished 32 games over .500, 97-65, last year. Pinder’s role in that is significant. The club was 20 over .500, 72-52, when he was a participant.

The thing is, when the A’s are hurting, Pinder is the guy they can push into any infield or outfield spot and know they’ll get a quality performance. When they are healthy, he’s the backup, looking for a spot to play. Manager Bob Melvin says he’s looking at being fully stocked at each of nine positions.

“We have a completely healthy group right now,” the manager said. “We have 11 guys who could potentially get consistent at-bats, so it will work itself out at some point.”

For Pinder, a right-handed bat who generally gets most of his plate time against left-handed pitching, that may well mean more time at second base. He could platoon with the left-handed Tony Kemp. The one drawback, at least at this early stage, is that the hottest hitter in the first week of simulated games is the other right-handed second base candidate, Franklin Barreto, who has a couple of homers.

Pinder spent most of his time last year in the outfield, filling in when Ramon Laureano and Stephen Piscotty were down with injuries. This time around, those two are healthy, as are two other left field candidates, Robbie Grossman, the regular there last year, and Mark Canha, who, like Pinder, can play any outfield spot.

With the outfield seemingly jammed, Pinder is looking at the infield. He can play third or short, but Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien are difficult to displace. So, second base it is.

“These next two weeks (will be about) getting ground balls and getting comfortable out there,” Pinder said. “I think getting as many ground balls as possible right now is my focal point.”

On the field, yes. He has another focal point. His wife, Taylor, is due to give birth the first week of September. Staying healthy to help her stay healthy as she experiences pregnancy in the middle of a pandemic is always on Pinder’s mind.

There are a bunch of decision that must be made in the next six weeks as the delivery date of the couple’s first child nears.

“We’ll revisit it and see where she’s at,” Pinder said. “If things are getting more restricted as far as hospitals, well you never know where we can be in a month, a month and a half as far as the coronavirus and what’s going on in hospitals and maybe make things more strict as far as visitors.

“Right now. I’m just kind of letting it play out. There is nothing I can control right now, nothing that she can control right now. I don’t want any of this to be too hard on her, especially in this last trimester. So, we’ll just try to make it as smooth as possible.”

Compared to that, concerns about where he’ll be playing are easier to deal with.

“Yeah, it’s a little weird,” he said. “But we’re all just making adjustments as we go. What’s going on around the clubhouse and on and off the field as far as (health and safety) protocols, that’s going to be a major adjustment to go through.

“Everybody knows that we have a job to do, and it’s coming quick. I still feel like a lot of people are kind of getting their bearings. As baseball players, we’re going to adjust to the game.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

Click the "follow" button in the top right corner to join the conversation on Inside the Athletics on SI. Access and comment on featured stories and start your own conversations and post external links on our community page.