ST. LOUIS — Tyler Lyons made his first MLB debut on May 22, 2013 against the San Diego Padres, hurling seven dominant innings. These days, however, he's feeling pretty comfortable as a late inning bullpen weapon for the St. Louis Cardinals. Escaping the clutches of arbitration certainly leaves a confident feeling, but Lyons isn't changing his preparation.
"Arbitration doesn't change much, because I am not doing anything different this offseason, whether it's a relief role or not. I'm just getting ready to pitch."
Lyons hasn't dealt with any lingering injuries this offseason, something that has plagued the past couple breaks. Lower body struggles have been the Achilles heel of Lyons' success rate, largely pertaining to knee troubles. This winter has been about as smooth sailing as his 2017 season, which saw the Southpaw settle in a relief role.
In 50 appearances covering 54 innings, Lyons averaged 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings, something he credited to being more aggressive on the mound. Coming into the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, Lyons was able to unleash more silver bullets that otherwise would have been saved in a start or longer appearance.
After three separate appearances where he pitched three innings or more, Lyons found himself pitching a single inning during August and September, which resulted in more strikeouts and less walks. When you only have 15-20 pitches to fire, a pitcher will let the hitter eat plenty during the action.
When asked about the vacant closer role and if President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak leaning on internal options for the bullpen rehab excites him, Lyons doesn't waver in his initial stance of straight business. He's simply getting ready to pitch, doesn't pay attention to offseason drama, and can contribute in a number of ways. He's a baseball soldier in a matter of speaking.
While his role on the team has been defined, Lyons is suddenly learning the complexities of being a father. He became a father on Nov. 30 to a baby girl, and is a green belt in the diaper changing department, even though he fears what is ahead of him. "We are both just figuring it out," said Lyons.
Lyons turns 30 on Feb. 21, and here's the exciting thing: the man has found a niche in the badlands neighborhood of big game pitching. While he was a serviceable spot starter, Lyons has the chance to be a dynamic bullpen asset for a team currently looking for an arm to establish order in the late night game.
Lyons posted career best marks in ERA, FIP, WHIP, and K/9 innings last year, and more assurance in the late game arena will certainly result in an even more impressive 2018. After all, he is healthy and ready to roll in January.
Tyler Lyons broke in with the Cardinals as a starter, but he will make his mark in the game as a reliever. Closer? Only time will tell.