February 13, 2013 12:07:35 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Sophomore left-hander Jacob Lindgren will start for the Mississippi State University baseball team at 4 p.m. Friday against the University of Portland in its season opener at Dudy Noble Field.
Lindgren's performances in three preseason scrimmages, where he showed improved control and velocity, showcased his ability to earn the role of Friday night starter when Southeastern Conference play begins next month.
"Jacob Lindgren has maybe the best left-handed slider in America," MSU senior right-handed starting pitcher Kendall Graveman said.
Lindgren pitched last summer for the Harwich Mariners in the Cape Cod Collegiate League, which is regarded as the best summer ball league for college baseball players. Lindgren will start this season's opener after starting MSU's 2012 season finale, a 3-2 loss to Samford University in a NCAA Regional at Florida State University. Lindgren allowed just one run and eight hits in four innings.
"Jacob Lindgren is somebody who has just pitched very, very well early in the spring, and has a power breaking ball, power fastball, and again has been able to control the strike zone for the most part," MSU baseball coach John Cohen said.
Lindgren had to wait until May 25 to get his first college start last year in a SEC tournament victory against LSU. The St. Stanislaus High School standout struggled early and allowed three runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings. He gave up two runs in a 36-pitch inning against the Tigers but rallied to keep MSU in a game it went on to win 4-3.
As a senior in high school, Lindgren a Bay St. Louis native was 8-0 with a 1.09 ERA and 128 strikeouts. The Chicago Cubs selected him in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft, but he told The Dispatch last year he turned down offers of more than $500,000 from the Cubs to attend MSU. Like every other MSU starting pitcher in the four-game weekend series against the Pilots of the West Coast Conference, Lindgren will be on a pitch count by MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson.
Junior right-hander Evan Mitchell, who also hopes to earn a weekend role, could be paired with Lindgren. Mitchell and Lindgren faced each other in consecutive weekend preseason scrimmages.
MSU plans to use what Thompson refers to as the "buddy system" in the first part of this season. The plan in non-conference play is to pair two tarting pitchers together to get the Bulldogs through seven to eight innings as it prepares for SEC play. Both pitchers will work on a pitch count to keep them fresh. The system is similar to the ones professional organizations use to manage their starting pitchers in spring training games. The plan also allows pitchers to know the batting order they will face, how many pitches they have, and what they need to showcase on that day.