NLCS stirs college memory

Not from my own college experience, mind you, but that of one of the players on a postseason roster.

It was 2008 and I was covering the SEC tournament in Alabama. It’s something I’ve done a few times over the years for pre-Draft coverage. It’s such a loaded conference that you can find a whole bunch of potential first-round picks in one place.

In that conference that year, in fact, was Pedro Alvarez, Gordon Beckham, Justin Smoak, Josh Fields and Reese Havens, all of whom were taken in the first round of that 2008 Draft. But the guy I’m thinking of was a supplemental pick that year, taken No. 39 overall by the Cardinals.

At the time, Lance Lynn was the ace of the Ole Miss staff, though he was coming off a so-so junior year. But he had a terrific tournament, helping his school make it to the finals (losing to LSU) and being named to the all-tournament team.

I remember having a conversation with someone at the tournament, someone who followed the team closely. That year, Ole Miss had more than just Lynn who was attracting scouts. There was another starter in the rotation, who went a little later in that draft. That pitcher, by all accounts, had better pure stuff than Lynn. By a lot. But he didn’t have a good year, either.

The biggest difference was how they performed under pressure. Lynn stepped up and was fantastic in the tournament. This other guy, not so much. In fact, we were watching this other guy pitch during this conversation. This unnamed pitcher was under the weather and, if memory serves, came out of the game fairly early as a result. I’m not saying this guy wasn’t sick, but it was what this Ole Miss observer said that really stuck with me.

We were talking about Lynn and how competitive he was on the mound. This conversation-mate said that if it was Lynn who was sick and it was his turn to pitch, he’d simply walk off behind the mound, throw up, then get back on the mound and keep pitching.

Disgusting? Maybe. A little too graphic? Perhaps. But you get the point. There was a certain amount of — to borrow a phrase from old colleague Billy Sample — intestinal fortitude with Lynn. So it’s not a surprise at all to me that he’s thrown three shutout innings across three appearances in the NLCS, even getting a win in Game 2. This after not having pitched since Aug. 9 and being left off the NLDS roster (oblique injury).

The setting wasn’t going to faze him. Success or failure, after seeing him in that SEC tournament, after having that conversation about his toughness on the mound, I knew Lynn would face that kind of challenge without fear.

I don’t know if Lynn is now permanently a reliever. His success in relief might point to that. He certainly has the right mindset.

Oh, and that other guy? He’s had some injury problems… and has yet to make it above Double-A.


Quick update on the postseason review front… You can now read the Houston Astros prospect review. Mariners review should be running later today and I’ll pass that link along when it’s live.





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