Joe Girardi will have a young, hard-throwing left-hander coming out of his bullpen after the call up of rookie Jacob Lindgren from the minor leagues.
Jacob Lindgren’s Major League Baseball career started with a set of directions and a locked door.
The Yankees’ top pick from the last draft who got called up just 353 days after his selection, landed in New York on Saturday night. Before he arrived at Yankee Stadium on Sunday around 1:15 p.m., he had to make a call to get directions to the players’ entrance. And when he got to the clubhouse he found the door locked.
“I didn’t know how to get in. I was waiting outside the clubhouse and just knocking,” said Lindgren, who was taken in the second round out of Mississippi State with the 55th overall pick. “Somebody called up and said ‘hey, who are you?’ I said ‘I’m Jacob Lindgren and I just got called up.’ He was like ‘all right, I’ll let you in.’ That’s how that went.”
Lindgren is a lefthander cut from the new mold of the ideal reliever — a high-velocity thrower. But Joe Girardi said there’s more to him than just 77 strikeouts in 46.1 minor league innings over 34 appearances.
“There’s late movement. You hear the catchers talk about it. If you’re not used to him, it’s kind of uncomfortable because the ball moves late,” he said. “And you just saw a ton of groundballs. You didn’t see people square the ball up on him. It’s pretty impressive.”
He rocketed through the system in 2014, playing with four different Yankees affiliates and climbing to Double-A Trenton. This season Lindgren appeared in 15 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was 1-1 with a 1.23 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 22 innings.
“It’s been a crazy ride,” he said of his rapid ascent.
He said he didn’t necessarily expect that he’d make the majors so soon, but that he considered it a possibility when the Yanks picked him so high.
“Them picking a reliever kind of high, I guess there’s always that chance,” Lindgren said. “But I had to pitch my game and show them what I could do and I guess they thought I was good enough to bring me up.”
The Yankees in recent years leaned more on free agency than the farm system to assemble contenders, but they are trying to get back to the blend that existed in the mid-1990s when Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were homegrown talent among veteran stars. Girardi called that mix “essential” in this day and age.
“With the price of free agency, with the length of years free-agent contracts are, I think it’s extremely important that you’re able to call on your minor leagues and get production,” Girardi said.
“You think about the long run that took place here. There was kids that came up from the minor leagues that were really successful, filled in with other players — free agents that came over or trades — and it was a great mixture.”
The Yankees’ bullpen has been taxed, which created the opening for Lindgren. Brendan Pinder was sent down to SWB after throwing 48 pitches on Saturday.
Girardi said that in ideal circumstances, Lindgren would be great to use to get a key lefty batter out in a situation before Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller come into the game. But he could be used for some longer stretches. Lindgren said he has thrown as many as 50 pitches in an outing in the minors.
He got the news on Saturday while the RailRiders were taking batting practice. But when pitching coach Dave Miley told him, he didn’t believe it.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “At first I didn’t take him serious, but then I was like ‘he’s a pretty serious guy’ so I was pretty excited.”
Girardi said he didn’t want to ask him to first pitch in a high-leverage situation, but Lindgren sounded like he was ready if it should happen.
“There’s always going to be nerves, but I am sure after I throw that first pitch —when the batter steps in — I’ll be ready and locked in,” he said.
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