Matt Lindstrom has an impressive major league resume for a guy on a minor league contract. The 35-year-old right-hander is 17-21 with a 3.68 earned-run average and 51 saves over eight big-league seasons and has been both a setup man and closer.
But age, a serious ankle injury and a decline in velocity and performance in 2014 have relegated him to that large and somewhat anonymous group of relievers fighting for a roster spot with the Angels this spring.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Lindstrom impressed Angels coaches with his early bullpen sessions, and he looked strong in his first Cactus League game Friday, striking out one and giving up one single in a scoreless inning of a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rockies at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
"Right now, his stuff is very similar to when he was throwing the ball well early last year," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's exciting. This guy has closer's stuff. It's just a matter of how consistent he is and if he can keep it going."
Lindstrom's fastball averaged 97 mph in his first five seasons (2007-11), but it dropped to 95 mph in 2013 and 93.1 mph in 2014. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate fell from 8.4 in 2012 to 6.8 in 2013 and 4.8 in 2014.
Lindstrom suffered a mild oblique injury in the spring of 2014 and then turned his left ankle fielding a bunt last May 21. Lindstrom had surgery and was told the recovery would take eight to 12 weeks, but he felt good enough to return after eight weeks. That was a mistake.
"I started feeling bone pain, and it felt weak again," Lindstrom said. "I couldn't run 100%. On the mound, you land on your left foot. It's not a great feeling going out and worrying about the mound, what condition it's in, as opposed to how you're going to get these guys out."
Lindstrom said the injury affected his velocity and performance. He had a 3.32 ERA when he went on the disabled list and a 7.20 ERA after he returned. But he rehabilitated the ankle over the winter and, after signing with the Angels in February, reported to camp in good shape.
"I can tell the ball is coming out of my hand better, the way it's supposed to," Lindstrom said. "It wasn't right last year, but now, I don't have any reservations. I can concentrate on getting people out."