Phillies

Phillies official calls Tom Glavine protege Ethan Lindow 'a special pitcher'

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Phillies official calls Tom Glavine protege Ethan Lindow 'a special pitcher'

Ethan Lindow will be rooting for the Phillies when they open a three-game series in Atlanta against the Braves on Tuesday night.

A few years ago, he would have been pulling for the Braves. He might even have done the tomahawk chop. Why not? He grew up in the Atlanta area.

“I am a Braves fan, yeah,” Lindow said during a visit to Citizens Bank Park over the weekend.

He caught himself.

“I was a Braves fan,” he said with a laugh.

Lindow changed his allegiance to the Phillies after being selected by the club in the fifth round of the 2017 draft out of Locust Grove High School in the Atlanta area. He passed on a chance to pitch for the University of Alabama-Birmingham and does not regret the decision. In two years, he has become one of the Phillies’ most intriguing pitching prospects.

“He’s a special pitcher,” said Josh Bonifay, the Phillies director of player development.

How so?

“He attacks the strike zone. He mixes all his pitches in the zone. He limits hard contact. That's hard to do at a young age,” Bonifay said. “He's able to spin the fastball where it gets above the barrels. He's able to put hitters away with his off-speed pitches.”

Lindow, a 6-foot-3 lefty, pitched at two levels of Single A ball this season and recorded a 2.52 ERA in 110 2/3 innings. He was in Philadelphia over the weekend to pick up the Paul Owens Award as top pitcher in the Phillies minor league system.

“It’s a great honor,” the 20-year-old Georgian and former Braves fan said.

Lindow spent the majority of the season in the South Atlantic League, where he recorded a 2.66 ERA in 94 2/3 innings for Lakewood. He finished the season in the Florida State League and shined for Clearwater. He made three starts and gave up just three earned runs in 16 innings. He struck out 16 and walked just two over that span.

For the season, Lindow struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings and walked just 1.8 per nine.

“Definitely my command,” he said when asked about his biggest improvement since the time he was drafted. “Being able to go out there and throw strikes. I really pride myself on going out and being able to attack the zone and being able to throw all my pitches for strikes.”

He throws a fastball, changeup, cutter and curveball. His fastball has touched 94 mph and there might be more in there as he gets what they call his “man strength.”

“He was able to command all of his pitches really well,” Bonifay said. “Once he got to Clearwater, I think he got a boost of energy from being called up to another level. He continued to pitch extremely well there and his strike percentage stayed the same.

“When you're at that age, the ability to command is very difficult. His ability to command all of his pitches is special at that age.”

As a teen, Lindow got some mentoring on the importance of command from one of the best command artists ever — Braves Hall of Famer Tom Glavine. Lindow played travel ball with Glavine’s son, Peyton.

Lindow has never lived down his first meeting with the elder Glavine.

“We were at a tournament,” Lindow recalled. “He was in the dugout. He was dressed as a normal guy, not like a Hall of Famer like you’d expect. So I’m asking, I asked his son, actually, I was like, ‘Who’s this guy sitting in the dugout?’ He’s like, ‘It’s my dad,’ and I’m like, ‘Really, Tom Glavine?’

“That’s been a joke with everybody since then. I did not realize it was him.”

Tom Glavine took a liking to Lindow — those lefty command guys stick together — and became a bit of a mentor.

Lindow recalled Glavine telling him: “Go out there, don’t worry about trying to throw so hard, hit your spots, work off of your movement.”

Of course, Glavine offered some pointers on throwing the changeup.

“He tweaked the fingers on my grip a little bit, trying to figure out what was best for me and it clicked,” Lindow said. “Besides that, I just picked his brain on what his game plan was going into games, stuff like that, and I think that helped a lot from a mental standpoint of pitching. Him sharing knowledge with me was a confidence booster.”

As a youngster, Lindow attended Braves games at Turner Field and SunTrust Park, the Braves’ shiny new home. He was a big fan of Greg Maddux, Chipper Jones and, of course, Glavine, who was easier to recognize with a tomahawk on his chest than he was in street clothes.

Lindow still has miles to go in his development. He projects to be back at Clearwater at the start of next season. But if all goes well on the development trail, he could find himself pitching for the Phillies against the Braves in Atlanta in coming seasons, and that …

“Would be a dream come true,” Ethan Lindow said.

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Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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NBCSP

At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



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