At this point in time in Spring Training, players begin to get that itch to ditch the sunburn and endless Waffle Houses in the area to head north and play games that matter. If a player is a lock to make the roster or has won a position battle already, the last two weeks of Cactus and Grapefruit league games can seem repetitive. Managers try to get a feel for their lineup and rotation while players continue to work on the fundamentals in games that do not matter. Over in Chicago White Sox camp, there is one player who does not mind that there is still some time to go before Opening Day.
White Sox closer candidate Matt Lindstrom has been waiting for weeks to see some game action in order to test his injured left oblique. He will get that chance today as he is slated to make his first appearance of 2014. If Lindstrom was inexperienced, there would be a concern with the setback he has faced. However, with Lindstrom, over the course of his seven years in the majors, he has proven that he is a durable pitcher who can be used in a plethora of roles.
To Lindstrom’s credit, he knows what type of pitcher he is. The 34-year-old is not blessed with the best arm in the game, and one can tell that he understands that by the way he pitches. Instead of trying to strike a hitter out in three pitches, Lindstrom isn’t afraid to throw waste pitches in order to keep the batter off balance. This causes a problem for the righty because a disciplined hitter is able to work the count and inflate Lindstrom’s pitch total. His inability to throw a blazing fastball has been a blessing and a curse for Lindstrom. Because of this, the journeyman’s seven-year big league career can be described as a roller coaster.
The former New York Mets farmhand did not appear in a big league game until he was 27. In his five years grinding it out in the Mets organization as a starter, Lindstrom discovered that he would have to adjust if he was going to stick with a big league club. Finally coming to the realization that he did not have the durability and the array of pitches in his arsenal to keep hitters off balance for six innings every fifth day, Lindstrom was delegated to the bullpen. Seven years and six teams later, the Idaho native has become a bullpen staple.
Last season for the White Sox, Lindstrom accumulated numbers almost identical to his yearly average. His numbers last year in 76 appearances of 1.43 WHIP and 6.8 SO/9 were synonymous with his yearly average of 1.42 WHIP and 7.5 SO/9.
While his closing experience in the past is appealing, the lack of a lively arm brings up red flags. Lindstrom saved 23 games back in 2010 for the Houston Astros but sported a 4.39 ERA while doing so. The closer role would probably have been taken away from him, but the Astros were showcasing him for prospective suitors while they were starting their rebuilding movement.
The time is now for the White Sox to discover what they have with the cast of flame throwers on their roster as they continue their own rebuilding process. Lindstrom has shown over a lengthy career that he can put up decent numbers consistently when labeled the setup man. With Nate Jones six years younger and blessed with a more explosive fastball, it makes sense to slate him in the ninth inning role to start the year. However, every dominant closer needs a dominant setup man to help bridge the gap to the ninth inning. Matt Lindstrom is that guy.