Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 1/27/12
Lance Lynn thought his season was over. The Cardinals thought their season was over. But thanks to their remarkable late-season surge that helped them sneak into the playoffs and extend their season, the rookie reliever made a surprising comeback for the National League Championship and World Series. Back to full strength and armed with a year of valuable experience, Lynn enters 2012 as a key member of the Cardinals bullpen. Even if it might not be where he will eventually call home. Lynn has been almost exclusively a starter since he entered the Cardinals organization in 2008 and made his Major League debut during a start on June 2. But when he returned from the minor leagues in late June and allowed just one hit in three shutout innings of relief on June 24, the 6-5, 250-pound Lynn had no idea he may have found his ticket to staying in the big leagues. "I just want to pitch," Lynn said. "That's all that matters to me. I just want to come in ready to pitch and I'm going to do the same thing this year as I've done in years past." The Cardinals currently have five starters under contract for 2012, meaning Lynn appears to be ticketed for the bullpen for at least another year. And after posting a 2.22 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .176 batting average in 16 relief appearances in the regular season, the bullpen could actually be the better spot for him. Lynn transformed into a dominant reliever before he strained his oblique in the ninth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 9. He was placed on the disabled list a day later and most expected to not see him pitch again until this spring. But something crazy happened. The Cardinals went 22-9 to finish the season and snuck into the playoffs on the last day. Lynn began throwing bullpen sessions and feeling better but was left off the roster for the Division Series against Philadelphia. When the Cardinals advanced to play the Brewers in the NLCS, Lynn was added to the roster when infielder Skip Schumaker was unable to play with an injury of his own. Lynn appeared in five of the six games in the NLCS, allowing no runs on just three hits. The big right-hander then made appearances in five of the seven World Series games, including a scoreless eighth inning that protected the Cardinals' lead in Game 7. The late-season success motivated Lynn even more as he hit the offseason, causing him to not waste any time before preparing for this season. "I had two months before the World Series run happened," Lynn said. "So I was able to just keep going with my workout program into the offseason. I didn't really take too much time off. "I just know I'm coming in and trying to pitch as well as I can to make the team whatever it may be. I just want to make the team and that's all I hope for." Lynn appears almost a lock to make the Cardinals bullpen based on his success in that role last season. But when the Cardinals do decide to move Lynn back into the starting rotation in the future, the right-hander will be armed with extra knowledge the bullpen experience allowed him to soak up including conversations with then pitching coach Dave Duncan and then bullpen coach and current pitching coach Derek Lilliquist. "Talking to them last year during the regular season and the postseason, they talked about my mentality and how it had changed from starting to relieving," Lynn said. "And (Adam) Wainwright brought it up one day when we were sitting on the training table and he talked to me about it. "He said you have to take the same mentality he has from his first year in the bullpen, so there's a lot I can take from relieving going into starting whenever that may be." Nobody knows when that will be. But after seeing his success in the pen last season, there doesn't figure to be many complaints with him staying in relief.
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