3 years later, Lindblom values return to Show

July 27th, 2020

The way sees it, he would not be poised to make his Brewers debut on Tuesday night against the Pirates had he not played for the Pirates in the first place.

The right-hander recalled a sit-down in 2017 Spring Training with then-Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage, when Lindblom was beginning a bid to return from two years pitching in Korea to make the Pirates as a non-roster invitee. The two men sat in front of a video machine, and Searage asked a question.

“When were you your best?”

Lindblom recalled 2015, his first year playing for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization. So, he and Searage set about re-creating the elements that made him successful that season, and while it never paid off for the Pirates -- Lindblom made only four appearances in the Majors and was charged with nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings -- it set him on a path to success and stardom back in Korea, which eventually led to a three-year contract with the Brewers.

There’s another reason Lindblom is thankful for that time with Pittsburgh. When he signed there, he was coming off a poor 2016 season with Lotte that coincided with a difficult pregnancy for his wife, Aurielle. She gave birth to a daughter, Monroe, who had a heart condition and required the first of what would be a series of surgeries soon after she was born. The Pirates, Lindblom said, helped him rediscover his confidence as a pitcher.

Success followed. In 2017, Lindblom made a dozen starts for Lotte and pitched respectably. In 2018 with the Doosan Bears, he logged a 2.88 ERA and won the league’s version of the Cy Young Award. In 2019, his ERA fell to 2.50 in 30 starts and he won the league’s version of the Cy Young Award and the MVP Award.

“I am different, and a lot of it has to do with that time with Pittsburgh,” Lindblom said. “I don't know who I was as a pitcher at that point.”

Now, he has three keys he carries into every outing.

“One of them has to be a constant, and the other two you've got to do the majority of the time to be successful,” Lindblom said. “And these are individual to everybody, but for me, my first is compete. And compete just simply means to go out and give our team a chance to win. It means to lock in mentally, focus on each and every pitch, and let the result be what it may.

“The second is command my fastball. If I go out there and can command my fastball, then I'm going to have a pretty good day. And the third is if I can throw five pitches for a strike. So, on any given day, if I'm doing two of those it's going to be a pretty good day. If I'm doing all three, it can be a special day. But no matter what, I can always go out and give my team a chance to win.”

Tuesday’s scheduled game at PNC Park would be Lindblom’s first Major League start since April 2, 2014, when he allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings for the Oakland A’s in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Indians. Lindblom will be aiming for his first victory as a Major League starter ever; he is 0-3 with a 5.97 ERA in six career starts.

On Opening Day at Wrigley Field, Brewers reliever David Phelps approached Lindblom and congratulated him on officially making it back to MLB.

“I told [Brewers Opening Day starter] Brandon Woodruff, ‘Never take this for granted, walking into a big league stadium, because you don’t know when it’s going to be taken away from you,’” Lindblom said. “You just have no idea. Every day you show up, just be thankful and grateful that you’re here, because five years ago, if you had told me I’d be sitting here, I’d say you were nuts. Definitely walking into stadiums now, it’s a little bit different feeling because your life can change -- not to be cliché here -- but in a heartbeat. There’s a lot of emotion, for sure.”

Counsell: ‘Critical that you try to do your best’
The Brewers met in a socially distanced manner Monday to discuss redoubling their attention to Major League Baseball’s health and safety protocols after news that two games -- Marlins vs. Orioles and Phillies vs. Yankees -- were postponed while players from the Marlins and Phillies underwent additional testing for COVID-19.

“It's obviously a serious situation,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We held a meeting regarding the topic, regarding anything guys wanted to say. We just have to continually double down on our efforts to be safe. That means asking how we can improve our practices, asking if we're doing things well enough, then committing to each other of doing the best that we can. 

“We're going to get reminders from this. This was probably harsher than we thought we'd get at this point. We got a huge punch to the face, really, of like, ‘Man, we have to be perfect here.’ That's what we're trying to do. That feels like a tall task, but we're going to try and get it right. It takes all of us.”

Asked how he thought players adhered to protocols in the dugout at Wrigley Field over the weekend, Counsell said, “There’s room for improvement in everything we do.”

Last call
• “There’s a good chance” that left-hander Brett Anderson is ready to come off the 10-day injured list for the first game he’s eligible to return, Counsell said. That would be Friday’s home opener against the Cardinals. Anderson originally was scheduled to start the Brewers’ second game of the regular season, but landed on the Opening Day IL after developing a blister on his left index finger. He threw an extended outing on Sunday at the Brewers’ alternate training site in Appleton, Wis.

• Utility man Brock Holt’s sprained left ankle has gradually improved since he rolled it prior to Friday’s Opening Day game against the Cubs, and he was scheduled to take part in a full batting practice workout on Monday at PNC Park. It looked good, Counsell said, that Holt would be available off the bench against the Pirates.