PARRISH ALFORD: Redbirds' pitcher Lynn still has some work to do

TUPELO – I was about 20 years old when I crossed paths with Tom Morris, my first boss in “real” newspaper, who passed along some good advice in spite of his Louisiana Tech affiliation.
Some of it I listened to, and one such nugget was this: “Don’t come back from a game and write about your bad experience. Your readers don’t care.”
Hopefully readers on the whole are more compassionate than Tom gave them credit for, but maybe they’re not.
I tend to believe the reader cares about a bad day at the office when it negatively impacts what they’re reading about, and that was the case Friday night in Memphis.
There’s not a whole lot that can mess up the baseball experience at AutoZone Park, but if the one guy you need to talk to complete your assignment stiffs you, then things take a downward turn.
But, as professionals we adapt and overcome, and so I present an update on former Ole Miss star Lance Lynn – without comment from Lance Lynn.
The big right-hander resides in Oxford in the off-season and remains fifth on the Ole Miss career list with 22 wins. He held the career strikeout record of 332 until Drew Pomeranz reached 344 this season.
Lynn was a supplemental first-round selection in 2008, taken by St. Louis with the 39th pick overall.
He was named the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, spending most of the season at Double-A Springfield, where he went 11-4 with a 2.92 earned run average.
He made one appearance for Memphis last season. He’s been with the Redbirds from the start in 2010 and is currently 4-5 with a 4.84 ERA. He shares the team lead with 58 strikeouts but leads the team with 34 walks.
In his second full season of minor league baseball, Lynn’s career is on track, but it’s not a can’t-miss. He has ground to cover.
“I would say when gets to the point that he can command three pitches, works both sides of the plate with his fastball, keeps the ball down in the zone, uses his off-speed in hitters’ counts … Those are the things that set people a part from advancing, from staying at the same level or regressing,” Redbirds pitching coach Blaise Ilsley said.
In his quest for a third pitch Lynn is working mostly with the change-up but hasn’t had enough success with it to say he’s arrived.
His velocity is consistently in the upper 80s. It reaches into the low 90s but not as often as one might expect with a 6-5, 250-pound frame.
“I don’t know that I would classify him as a power pitcher at this level. He has a good enough fastball and breaking pitch when it’s working to strike people out,” Ilsley said.
As his walks total suggests, Lynn goes through periods of control issues. Walks weren’t hurting him in his last start, but he was leaving too much ball in the strike zone. New Orleans hitters weren’t killing him, but they were making contact. He gave up seven hits in the fourth inning, but only one – a damaging three-run home run – went for extra bases.
Ultimately, the personality trait that made Lynn less chatty Friday night is what his position coach sees as his greatest asset at this point in his career.
“What I like about him is the way he competes. He’s a guy that seems to get stronger as the game goes on. When his breaking ball is working, and he’s locating the fastball, he’s been very effective,” Ilsley said. “He still has things to learn and areas he needs to improve, but again, he’s only in his second year of pro ball. He’s at a pretty high level right now, and he’s done well.”
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ djournal.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com.

Parrish Alford