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Bucs grant pitcher Lincoln extended audition

Brad Lincoln is reaching the point in his career when time will begin to work against him.

A former first-round draft pick, Lincoln has spent five-plus seasons in the Pirates farm system and put up solid, albeit not sparkling, numbers. Three months ago, he turned 26 — an age when most pitchers of his pedigree are establishing themselves in the majors.

"We've waited on it long enough," Lincoln said. "It needs to start sometime."

Over the next few weeks, Lincoln will get his chance. He will move into the starting rotation in place of injured Kevin Correia, who likely is out for the rest of the season.

If Correia does not return, Lincoln figures to get six starts — an audition for a more permanent role next season.

"It's going to be a great opportunity for him to give us a good showing or at least get consistent work at the major league level," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're going to be playing teams in our division, there's going to be teams with some things on the line, so it should be good, healthy competition."

Lincoln already has performed well in two spot starts this year. On July 2, he gave up two runs in six innings against Washington. On Monday, he yielded two runs in six innings against Milwaukee. He did not get a decision in either game.

Lincoln was recalled earlier this month from Indy, but not to work as a starter. He made four relief outings over a two-week span and had a 7.94 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.

"The bullpen was kind of a mixed bag," Hurdle said.

Lincoln admitted he had trouble adjusting to a reliever's routine.

"Starting is something I've done my entire career, so I'm going to be a little more comfortable with that than coming out of the 'pen," Lincoln said.

His start Monday had a rocky start. Corey Hart homered on the second pitch. The next batter, former Pirates outfielder Nyjer Morgan, singled and eventually scored to give the Brewers a quick 2-0 lead.

Lincoln quickly regrouped. He faced 21 more batters but allowed just one hit and put up five scoreless innings. He held sluggers Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee to a combined 0 for 8.

"Against a lineup like that, if you give up two runs you could lose the ballgame," Lincoln said. "It was a sign for me to say, It needs to stop here. Go after these guys and pound inside. That's what I did."

Hurdle was impressed.

"It would've been tough for us to not give him the chance to keep moving forward," Hurdle said. "The timing is right for him to get this opportunity and see what he can make of it."

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