Lindblom eyes bigger role in Phils' bullpen
WASHINGTON — Most relief pitchers in the big leagues didn’t set out on the path to be a bullpen piece. Most of the time pitchers begin as starters and find their niche in relief. For instance, Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon never worked out of the bullpen until he made it to the majors.
But for new Phillies’ reliever Josh Lindblom, the path has been a circuitous one.
The mild-mannered West Lafayette, Ind. native began as a closer for Purdue University only to be converted to a starter when he was drafted in the second round by the Dodgers in 2008. Yet after 2½ years as a starter all the way up the Dodgers' chain, the 25-year-old righthander found himself back in his original role.
The truth is Lindblom couldn’t be more pleased.
“I struggled mightily at Albuquerque and I went from Triple A to Double A,” Lindblom said before Wednesday night’s game at Nationals Park. “I got demoted and in May of 2011, I got to the big leagues and have been here ever since.”
The move to the bullpen worked out so well that Lindblom doubts he’ll ever flirt with another role again.
“I love the bullpen,” he said. “I love the tight situations with every pitch meaning something and being able to have an impact more than once every five days. It's something I enjoy to be able to be out there and compete.”
He’s thrived as a reliever, too. During his rookie season Lindblom appeared in 27 games and posted a 2.73 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. This season Lindblom has appeared in 48 games and has a 3.02 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. If there has been a flaw in his appearances, it’s Lindblom’s propensity to give up the long ball. He’s allowed nine homers this season, though he hasn’t allowed one since July 7 and hasn’t surrendered a run since July 20.
Meanwhile, count on Lindblom to have a bigger role in the Phillies’ bullpen. For the Dodgers he was used in a variety of roles from setup man to a multiple-innings reliever. Now that he’s with the Phillies, Lindblom could find himself pitching the seventh and the eighth innings for his new team.
“The stronger your bullpen, the better you are,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “And at the front end of the bullpen, if guys can go multiple innings that definitely helps you. That’s how you rest your bullpen and that’s how you get the most out of it.”
Lindblom said he’s up for whatever Manuel wants him to do. Mostly, the reliever said, he wants to earn whatever role he takes on for the Phillies.
“Wherever I’m slated at I’ll come in and take advantage of that role,” Lindblom said. “Obviously, Papelbon is the closer and my role doesn’t really matter to me — I just want to win. We kind of bounced around in LA where we pitched and in certain situations [but] you have to get guys out and that’s the important thing.”
Meanwhile, Lindblom went from the heat of the pennant race in the NL West to last place in the NL East overnight. Then again, the Phillies’ new reliever is pretty sure the situation is just temporary.
“We went into St. Louis last year and swept them and put them 11 or 12 games out and you saw what they did last year,” Lindblom said. “With this team, with the pitching staff and the offense and the lineup, there’s a lot of baseball left to be played and anything can happen.”