Holdzkom was a seventh-round pick by the Florida Marlins in the 2001 draft, who posted impressive numbers from the bullpen prior to throwing his last pitch of the 2003 season in that year’s edition of the Arizona Fall League.
This past season, he would log 46 innings and appear in 25 games, primarily with Cubs Double-A affiliate West Tennessee.
While Holdzkom continued pitching right up until the end of 2003, he says the pain in his elbow had surfaced well before the final month of the season.
“I unfortunately tore my ligament and it took awhile for them to realize it,” Holdzkom recalled. “I didn’t get surgery until five months later.”
He would miss the entire 2004 season as a result and would appear in only 12 games the following year before joining the Cubs toward the end of Spring Training this past March. Holdzkom was traded to Chicago along with minor league pitcher Zack McCormack for right-hander Todd Wellemeyer.
When he first came to the Cubs, Holdzkom didn’t have much time to take in any would-be new surroundings. He immediately reported to Double-A and would make only four appearances from the bullpen before jamming his shoulder on April 21 in a win at Chattanooga. He would miss over two months worth of action due to the shoulder injury.
As was the case before “Tommy John,” Holdzkom’s numbers were nothing if not solid, even without the amount of innings he would have liked.
The right-hander struck out 43 and walked 15 this season, finishing up with a 1.76 ERA between the Diamond Jaxx and seven appearances divided up among Class-A Daytona and the Cubs’ Rookie League team in Mesa. For his career, he has a 2.62 ERA in 135 games totaling 206 1/3 innings.
Holdzkom features a cut-fastball in his repertoire, plus a two-seam fastball and the familiar curveball-slider combination. The “slurve” is the one he points to his as his out-pitch.
“I get some pretty good strikes off of that,” he says.
And toward the end of August, the Cubs boasted that Holdzkom (listed at 6’4”, 240 pounds) was throwing in the low to mid 90s.
“He’s got a great body and is a real strong guy with a real good arm,” said Cubs Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita.
Now in his second Fall League stint, Holdzkom has appeared in 11 games totaling 15 2/3 innings. He’s allowed seven earned runs and 13 hits for a 4.02 ERA. He has 18 strikeouts to eight walks.
“Lincoln’s got a really good body and he’s working on some other things like fielding his position and holding runners a little bit,” said Mesa Solar Sox manager Pat Listach, who also managed Holdzkom at Double-A.
But when he first got the invitation back to the Fall League, Holdzkom wasn’t looking to work on any specific pitch or particular area of his game. He simply wanted more innings and the Fall League was a way to get them.
“I’ve been out for so long that I’m just trying to get innings under my belt,” Holdzkom says. “You want to refine your whole game really. There’s no one specific thing for the entire game that I want to refine.”
Listach added: “He’s a work in progress. He had some injuries early on in his career, but he’s finally healthy and looks like a pretty good prospect. He’s just happy to be healthy and pitching again this season.”