Minor League Insider: Josh Lindblom embracing second chance to start

Posted Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Elsewhere on the farm Triple A Round Rock: Veteran left-handed relievers Neal Cotts and Nate Robertson have been pitching well. Cotts had a 1.69 ERA over his first eight appearances, while Robertson had a 1.29 ERA over his first six outings. Double A Frisco: Right-hander Neil Ramirez, who is scheduled to start today, is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA over his first four starts. He has 25 strikeouts and 12 walks over 19 1/3 innings. Class A Hickory: Outfielder Nick Williams, the Rangers’ second-round pick last year, is on the seven-day disabled list with a sore right shoulder. He was batting .303 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs before injuring his shoulder diving for a ball. ... Third baseman Joey Gallo homered Friday, his eighth of the season. He went into Saturday’s game batting .228, and had 30 strikeouts over his first 79 at-bats. … Right-hander C.J. Edwards allowed an unearned run over five innings Friday, and has a 1.93 ERA over his first five starts.

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Like anybody in the big-league camp, Josh Lindblom wanted to pitch well enough to make the Texas Rangers’ Opening Day roster.

Lindblom was one of two pitchers the Rangers acquired for Michael Young this off-season, and was projected to be a right-handed setup man in the bullpen. That didn’t come to fruition, though, and the Rangers informed him in late March that he was bound for Round Rock — as a starter.

Lindblom hadn’t started a game since 2010 when he was with the Dodgers organization, and consulted with veteran Derek Lowe about the transition.

It proved to be a pivotal conversation.

“After talking with him, I really felt like I sold myself short the first time I started and how good I could be in that role,” Lindblom said. “Now I’m sold out on starting.”

Said Lowe: “He told me he never really embraced starting or gave it a fair shot. The gist of the conversation was about him getting a routine of what to do every day between starts, because you can’t just wing it. So it was good to see him excited about it, even though sometimes it’s hard to see the benefits in the long run of your career.”

The early results have shown Lindblom’s new approach and mentality are helping this time around.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Lindblom is 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA over five appearances (four starts) with the Express. He allowed three runs on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in his last start Friday.

“I love the routine I’ve gotten on,” Lindblom said. “I’m enjoying being here and this part of my journey right now.”

Getting to that point had been a struggle for Lindblom. After all, he had always viewed himself as a reliever.

He was Purdue’s closer in 2008, going 1-2 with a 3.32 ERA and 12 saves. He was drafted by the Dodgers that summer, and inserted into the rotation.

But, in the back of his mind, Lindblom always felt he would be back in the bullpen at some point. And he was in 2009, finishing the season in the ’pen and essentially staying in that role from there. He made 10 starts over 30 appearances in 2010.

Lindblom worked as a reliever in 2011, making his big-league debut later that year by posting a 2.73 ERA over 27 appearances. Last year, he made 74 relief appearances with the Dodgers and Phillies.

That’s the role the Rangers thought Lindblom would fill when they acquired him. He struggled in spring training, though, with a 6.10 ERA over nine appearances.

Rangers president of baseball operations/general manager Jon Daniels said the organization felt no pressure to put Lindblom on the big-league team because he was part of the return for Young, but they are intrigued by his potential to start.

“He’s got a four-pitch mix, consistently throws three for strikes and the curveball is improving,” Daniels said. “It’s a big, physical frame that can carry innings.”

Starters, for the most part, are more valuable assets to organizations, and it can be more financially beneficial to the player down the road.

So far, so good for Lindblom. And nobody sees why it can’t continue.

“The jury is still out, but he’s got a clean, repeatable delivery that isn’t too violent,” Triple A pitching coach Brad Holman said. “He’s got some pitch-ability and knows how to control damage, which might come from his time in the bullpen.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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