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.
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"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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