It took Jacob Lindgren slightly less than a year to go from the second round of last June's amateur draft to where he stood Sunday in front of his Yankee Stadium locker during his first day on the job in the major leagues. Asked what he was doing a year ago at this time, Lindgren pointed to a television in the clubhouse that was showing the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament and said, "I was probably there."
The lefthanded reliever played his college baseball for powerful Mississippi State. After being drafted by the Yankees, he spent time at four levels, beginning in rookie league and rising quickly to finish the season at Double-A Trenton.
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He began this season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he had a 1.23 ERA in 15 appearances, giving up 16 hits and 10 walks in 22 innings and striking out 29. In 34 minor-league appearances over two seasons, he has yet to give up a home run and has a 1.74 ERA.
"It's been a crazy ride," Lindgren said. "I met a lot of guys on the way up and learned a lot of things. I learned how to be a professional. The college game to the professional game is a little different. They're playing on the weekends, and we're playing every day. You add on to your routine and learn different things."
Lindgren was surprised when he was pulled aside Saturday and told to report to New York. He made his way to the clubhouse entrance in the players' parking lot at about 1:15 p.m. Sunday and knocked on the door until a voice came over the intercom and asked, "Who are you?''
"I said, 'My name is Jacob Lindgren. I just got called up,' '' he said. "They said, 'All right, we'll let you in.' ''
Despite that unceremonious welcome, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he would have no hesitation calling on Lindgren to help a bullpen that was abused in the 1-9 streak leading up to Sunday night's game against the Rangers.
"This is a guy I'm not going to be afraid to pitch at any time," Girardi said. "We liked what we saw in spring training, he's done well in Triple-A and he's moved quickly. He's going to get in."
At 5-11, 205 pounds, Lindgren is not an imposing presence, but as his strikeout record in the minors indicates, he has developed into a power pitcher. Certainly, Girardi and the coaching staff liked what they saw of Lindgren in spring training.
"It's the amount of ground balls he gets," Girardi said. "You don't see a heavy sinker like you see from some of the other guys, but 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 so late. You didn't see people square the ball up on him. It's pretty impressive."
Lindgren said he and his college pitching coach, Butch Johnson, made the decision early on that he would be better off using his talents to the max as a reliever rather than trying to develop into a starting pitcher. Being drafted as high as he was confirmed the wisdom of that judgment and gave Lindgren some confidence that he could make it to the majors.
He figured he was good for up to 50 pitches if called upon by Girardi. "There's always going to be nerves," Lindgren said, anticipating his debut, "but when that batter steps in, I'll be ready and locked in.''