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12/14/12 3:10 PM ET
New Ranger Lindblom comfortable with pressure on
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Josh Lindblom is 6-foot-4 and is from Indiana. He looks like an extra from the famous basketball movie "Hoosiers," guarding Jimmy Chitwood in a playoff game at a WPA gym in Terre Haute.
"I'm from West Lafeyette," Lindblom said. "Born and raised there."
Lindblom does not play basketball. He grew up in Indiana dreaming of being a Major League Baseball player, and was the state's Player of the Year in 2005 in his senior year at William Henry Harrison High in West Lafayette. He was drafted by the Astros in the third round, but did not sign. He spent one year at Tennessee and then transferred back to Purdue, a Big Ten school in his hometown more famous for producing astronauts than baseball players.
The list of astronauts from Purdue include Neil Armstrong, Gus Grissom and Eugene Cernan. The list of baseball players include Archie Cianfrocco, Jermaine Allensworthy and Moose Skowron, the former Yankees first baseman from the Mickey Mantle era.
"No, I was not interested in being an astronaut," Lindblom said. "I'm a baseball player."
Lindblom was the Boilermakers' closer, had 12 saves as a junior and was a candidate for the Golden Spikes Award for the top collegiate player in 2008. The Dodgers took him in the second round of the '08 First-Year Player Draft and used as him as a starter in the Minors, before deciding he was ultimately better off in the bullpen.
"I love the role of the reliever," said Lindblom, who is in Texas this week. "I like the idea of being able to impact a game three or four times a week. That's what I prepare for mentally. I feel comfortable in any role."
The Rangers need him as a setup reliever in front of closer Joe Nathan. That's why he was one of two pitchers acquired from the Phillies for Michael Young earlier this week. The Rangers have spent the winter futilely chasing some of the bigger free-agent names on the market, but one of their offseason goals was to upgrade the bullpen, and Lindblom is a big part of that.
"Lindblom's a guy we see having an inside track for one of the open spots in our bullpen," general manager Jon Daniels said. "He throws strikes, he's durable and he has an aggressive demeanor on the mound."
This is the second time in less than five months Lindblom has been involved in a major trade. The Dodgers traded him and two other players to the Phillies on July 31 for outfielder Shane Victorino, a two-time All-Star and key member of their 2008 World Series championship team.
The trades have a couple of things in common. Both times Lindblom was traded for a popular player who was huge part of the deal. Both times Lindblom was the only Major Leaguer involved in the return package who could provide his team with immediate results.
Being traded for Victorino may help in dealing with the idea of being traded for the Rangers' all-time leader in multiple offensive categories.
"In going to the Phillies for Shane Victorino, knowing what he meant to that club, I probably pressed a little too much and tried to do too much," Lindblom said. "I'm never going to be Michael Young, but I can bring what I've done before to help this team. Michael Young is a great player, but there's no uneasiness. ... Just be myself."
Lindblom was 2-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 48 games with the Dodgers before the trade. He averaged 7.9 hits, 3.4 walks and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His ERA shot up to 4.63 with the Phillies, and the numbers suggest he was overthrowing. He had 6.6 walks and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings while with Philadelphia.
"I need to focus on staying down in the zone, attacking hitters and getting strike one," Lindblom said. "Get back to the basics of pitching."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro suggested his club made a mistake pushing Lindblom into an eighth-inning role before he was ready. Amaro said Lindblom is more comfortable pitching in the sixth or seventh inning.
The Rangers don't know the final composition of their bullpen other than Nathan will be their closer. They signed Joakim Soria to be their eighth-inning reliever, but he is coming back from Tommy John surgery. Soria, who spent five seasons as the Royals' closer, had the surgery on April 3, 2012, and is not expected back until May 2013 at the earliest.
The Rangers still have right-hander Tanner Scheppers and left-handers Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman. Lindblom, who has pitched in 101 games over two seasons, has more Major League experience than all three. Ross and Scheppers were rookies in 2012, while Kirkman has pitched in 57 games over parts of the past three seasons. Texas' third-most experienced reliever after Nathan and Soria is right-hander Evan Meek, who has pitched in 156 games and will be in camp on a Minor League contract.
The Rangers are still looking for a veteran setup reliever, and there are still a number of attractive options on the free-agent market. But whatever the Rangers do this offseason, the actual makeup and roles for the bullpen won't be determined until Spring Training and the first few months of the season. With Soria due back in May and Neftali Feliz in August, the Rangers' bullpen could be evolving over the course of the season.
"Every role has to be earned," Lindblom said. "No role is given away. I'm going to take the opportunity in Spring Training, work hard and whatever role they give me, take it and run with it."