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03/26/10 7:48 PM ET

Reckling impressive in duel with Lincecum

Young left-hander rocketing up Angels system

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Here was Trevor Reckling, 20 years old, just three years removed from a New Jersey high school campus, facing the San Francisco Giants and the great Tim Lincecum.

Excited? Naturally. Intimidated? Not at all.

"He's pitching against Lincecum, and he didn't look nervous at all," Angels center fielder Torii Hunter said. "That's the poise you see. That's why the kid is special.

"He wants to learn. He works hard. He's one guy who listens, who tries to put it all together. I can see him doing great things in the big leagues."

Reckling held the Giants scoreless for four innings before tiring in the fifth, yielding two earned runs while dueling Lincecum, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, on even terms.

He's expected to open the season at Triple-A Salt Lake, having rocketed through the farm system. Manager Mike Scioscia, like his center fielder, sees a big future for Reckling.

"He's showing he's ready for Triple-A now," Scioscia said. "If he continues to show progress, he's going to be on the depth chart real soon. He has stuff that will play in the Major Leagues once he gets a little experience.

"He has some deception in his delivery and has three very good pitches he knows what to do with. At a young age there's going to be a learning curve. He's come a long way. It's going to be exciting to see where he comes in the next year."

Understanding it's a process, Reckling is in no rush to reach The Show. Wise elders have told him it can be counterproductive to get there before you're ready.

"I can't really control that," Reckling said. "The only thing I can do is keep improving, getting better.

"They told me Tuesday I was going to throw [against the Giants], and I was excited. Getting to pitch against Tim Lincecum, against big league hitters, that's a great feeling."

His game plan was to keep his 92-95 mph fastball, sharp curveball and changeup down in the strike zone. Mission accomplished.

"I thought he did a great job with his fastball/breaking ball combination, then bringing the change into it," Scioscia said. "His stuff's for real."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy is a believer.

"I like him," Bochy said. "He's got a good, live arm and command. He was impressive out there."

With a pair of groundouts, Reckling kept Aaron Rowand at third base after a leadoff double in the first. Half of the lefty's 14 outs came on the ground, two on strikeouts. Hideki Matsui gloved a fly ball in left, his first chance with the Angels.

Hunter handled two fly balls in the fifth before a walk, double and single ended Reckling's memorable afternoon in the sun.

"Today he was trying to keep the ball down and he did," Hunter said. "You can see the adjustments he's made since last spring. That tells you a lot about him."

Reckling played basketball at St. Benedict's Prep High School in New Jersey but always knew baseball was his future. Taken in the eighth round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, he has excelled as the youngest player on his team at four levels.

He attributes his uncommon maturity to his father's insistence that he challenge himself in his formative years.

"When I was younger, my dad always had me playing with older competition," Reckling said. "When I was 14, I was playing with guys 17, 18. That helped me tremendously."

He's still learning from the older guys.

Reckling, who turns 21 on May 22, spent part of the offseason in the Dallas area training with Hunter and absorbing life lessons from the Angels' leader.

"My wife even likes him," Hunter said, grinning. "He's a good kid. He's like a little brother in the clubhouse."

There are unmistakable parallels with the late Nick Adenhart, who preceded Reckling as the prized pitching prospect in the Angels' system.

"You see the same thing with Trevor," Hunter said. "Nick had great stuff and was a good kid. It was promised, and it was shortened. Everybody takes Trevor under his wing. I've seen Scott Kazmir, [Jered] Weaver always on him, letting him know he belongs."

Trevor Reckling is on the way. It's just a matter of when he arrives.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.