04/05/09 6:38 PM EST
Lindstrom ready to go if needed
Cleared for opener, closer eager to show consistency
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
The Marlins open against the Nationals on Monday at Dolphin Stadium, and if a save opportunity presents itself, Lindstrom will be called upon.
A few weeks ago, it didn't look as if Lindstrom would be ready for Opening Day. On March 15, while pitching for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, he exited a game against The Netherlands due to a right rotator cuff strain.
The discomfort came in the second round of the Classic at Dolphin Stadium.
Given the green light for the regular season, Lindstrom said after Sunday's workout that he was confident all along he could be ready by Monday's season opener.
"I didn't think that it was something terribly serious, because I still could throw," Lindstrom said. "It's a credit to our trainers -- a credit to our staff, getting back to where I am now. I feel I'm ready to go."
In many ways, how Lindstrom goes will largely determine the Marlins' success. The 29-year-old is taking over the closer spot vacated when Kevin Gregg was traded to the Cubs in November.
The bullpen is a big issue -- especially with Lindstrom coming off his shoulder issue and veteran right-hander Scott Proctor on the disabled list indefinitely with an elbow problem.
Previously, Lindstrom was in a setup spot. But the hard-throwing right-hander got a taste of closing last September, and he converted all five of his chances in the month.
Because of the shoulder problem, Lindstrom will be held back from appearing in back-to-back games for the early part of the season. So if he gets a chance to pitch on Monday, he wouldn't be used on Tuesday.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Leo Nunez is the fallback closing option.
Not rushing it right off the bat is fine with Lindstrom, who pitched in 66 games last year.
"I think it will be a process, for sure," Lindstrom said. "I feel that when I get that chance to compete out there, there will be no reservations as far as wondering if the arm is going to hurt. I've already tested it out, trying to get ready for this day to come.
"I have high expectations of myself. I'll go out there and try to do the best I can."
The Marlins have had success developing closers in recent years. Gregg held the job the past two seasons, and before that, Joe Borowski enjoyed a strong season in 2006.
Lindstrom, with his 100-mph fastball, has the ability to be a dominant closer. To achieve that status, he said he will have to show consistency.
"I'm going to have to make sure my stuff is ready to go each and every night, and just trust my stuff," Lindstrom said. "That's my biggest thing. The coaches in this organization have been preaching this from Day 1: 'Don't be timid with your stuff. Just trust it. Be confident with your pitches. Make the pitches you need to make to be successful.' I think those are the few components to having a successful career and a successful future as a closer."
So much of pitching in relief is dealing with overcoming the rough outings.
"That's a good reason why pitchers aren't usually thrown into a closer role at the beginning of their careers," Lindstrom said. "You've got to learn the ups and downs in bullpen life and understand it's not going to be peachy every time I go out.
"Dealing with adversity is a big part of the game. It's a game of failure, as everybody knows. Just being able to come in the next day -- don't be too high, don't be too low, I think that's the main thing."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.