Adams working hard at second
Former starting shortstop making strides at new position
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Russ Adams is approaching his current situation in the same manner he might go after a ground ball.
As a baseball skips through the infield grass toward the Blue Jays second baseman, his thoughts are focussed on what he has to do to glove the ball cleanly. The last thing any infielder wants to do is start thinking about the throw before the ball is in hand. That's the root of many mistakes.
For Adams, he's working hard on pushing thoughts about where his career is heading to the back of his mind. All he wants to do is concentrate on the tasks before him each day.
"I'm working on forgetting about the past and not worrying about the future," said Adams, summing up his current mind-set shortly after batting practice on Thursday at Knology Park.
Adams' past includes more than a season's worth of games as Toronto's starting shortstop. That was until defensive woes led the Jays to strip him of that status last season, when he was demoted to Triple-A Syracuse for a transition to second base.
The future could include a spot for Adams as Toronto's second baseman. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has said this spring that it's not farfetched to think Adams could be at second and current second baseman Aaron Hill could be back at shortstop for Toronto in 2008.
Adams only wants to focus on his present situation, though. At the end of last year, Ricciardi made it known that the 26-year-old infielder would be heading back to Triple-A in '07 to continue his development at second. That hasn't changed this spring.
"That was something that was obviously disappointing to hear," said Adams, referring to his seemingly inevitable trip back to Syracuse. "Once you spend time in the big leagues, the last place you want to be is back in the Minors.
"At the same time, I've got my head clear on it. I've been able to just focus on getting my work in, getting better, and continuing to work hard, even though I know that's where I'm headed."
So far this spring, Brian Butterfield, Toronto's third-base coach and infield instructor, has been impressed with Adams' improvement at second base. It's not a completely unfamiliar position for the infielder, considering that he played second at University of North Carolina, but things are much different on the big-league scale.
Butterfield said that Adams is getting quicker at turning double plays -- that the infielder's positioning with his hands and feet is much better than when he first made the switch to second last May.
"He's taken a quantum leap in a lot of things that he's been adjusting to at second base," Butterfield said. "It's an important year for him. I think that a good year would certainly help his confidence."
Confidence was something Adams had plenty of at the beginning of Spring Training last year, when he was coming off a strong rookie season as Toronto's starting shortstop. In his first 36 games at short in 2006, though, Adams committed 10 errors -- nine on throws.
Adams then faced two separate demotions to the Minors, and the focus on his defense took a toll on his offense. The left-handed hitter finished the year hitting .219 with three home runs and 28 RBIs in 90 games with the Jays. In 2005, he hit .256 with eight homers and 63 RBIs in 139 games.
"It was a roller-coaster ride of a year and I went through a lot," Adams said. "It's one of those situations you learn from and, at the same time, you do your best just to forget about it. It's in the past and there's nothing I can do to change it now."
All Adams can do is take his upcoming bus ride to Syracuse in stride, and try to perform well in the areas where the Blue Jays would like to see improvement.
"He's ticketed for Triple-A," Toronto manager John Gibbons said earlier this spring. "We just want to see him go down there and see him have a big year both offensively and defensively. He knows that."
In many ways, this season could be a crucial campaign in Adams' quest to regaining his status as an everyday player with Toronto. True to his current mentality, though, he's trying not to view the upcoming year as anything more than just another stepping stone.
"I don't think, by any means, that I'm in a do-or-die type situation," Adams said. "I don't feel that kind of pressure, and in no way am I going to put that type of pressure on myself.
"I'm just going to go out there and play and enjoy myself and play with confidence. Whatever happens, happens. I'm still a young baseball player and I've still got a lot of years ahead of me."
Not that he's looking too far ahead.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.