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Starkey: Lincoln-Strasburg, anyone?

| Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sports Illustrated ran a piece this week on the "wave of pitching talent" sweeping through Major League Baseball. It appears to have missed Pittsburgh, home of Charlie "Good Stuff" Morton, but a ripple has been detected in Indianapolis.

That is where Pirates prospect Brad Lincoln continues to flourish in Triple-A, fresh off six more shutout innings Thursday. He has thrown 11 such innings in his past two starts, with 13 strikeouts and two walks. He is 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA. He is 12-4 since he entered Triple-A last season.

Apparently, the Pirates believe Lincoln's off-speed pitches need some fine-tuning before he's ready for The Show. They believe newly acquired left-hander Dana Eveland and his 6.45 earned-run average (and 27 walks versus 21 strikeouts) is the better option. General manager Neal Huntington said Eveland has "an interesting four-pitch mix."

The four pitches, of course, are ball one, ball two, ball three and ball four.

Meanwhile, in one of the most incredible quotes I have ever read in a team-released statement, Huntington said of Eveland — a journeyman whose annual ERAs are often so high as to be incalculable — "We feel this acquisition is an upgrade for our current rotation with the upside of years of control and improved production."

The upside of years of (contractual) control. Wow. So you mean this guy isn't just mediocre but might be here for a while?

Where do I buy tickets?

I cannot believe that in an environment where fans are hyper-sensitive to the Pirates' miserly ways, a team executive would cite years of contractual control as part of the "upside" in acquiring a no-pedigree pitcher.

Nobody cares how long the Pirates control Dana Eveland's rights. Just don't be surprised if Eveland's start Monday is his first audition as a possible replacement for Paul Maholm or Zach Duke if either is traded.

Here's something people might care about, though: What if the Pirates gave Lincoln, the fourth overall pick from 2006, his first big-league start Tuesday night in Washington, D.C., where Nationals uber-phenom Stephen Strasburg is scheduled to make one of the most-anticipated debuts in baseball history?

Now, that would be fun.

That would be gutsy.

And that would require a quick change in plans.

By the time you read this, I'm hoping the Pirates will have come to their senses, pulled Jeff Karstens from his scheduled start Tuesday and replaced him with Lincoln. I'm hoping -- naively -- that they will have found the fortitude and imagination to give the people what they want.

This is the entertainment business, you know, so how about ditching the new-age statistical analysis sheets for a minute and replacing them with a daring script that runs the risk of delighting the fan base?

What's the worst that could happen, Lincoln loses• His confidence is crushed• Please. If the kid has any future as a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, he'll survive. He'd no doubt relish the opportunity to pitch in such a charged environment.

The Pirates are almost never in the national spotlight. This is their chance. MLB Network is televising the game. A massive press contingent is covering it. The eyes of the baseball world will be fixed squarely on Nationals Park.

What a rare opportunity for baseball's most prodigious losers.

Strasburg, the No. 1 pick last year, he has been ruining Triple-A hitters with his speed-of-light fastball and wicked breaking pitches. It's probably not an accident the Nationals chose the feeble Pirates as his first opponent. It even could be construed as an insult.

That's why I'd love to see the Pirates fight the fireballer with fire.

Hello, baseball world, we still exist. We have a future ace of our own and we're not afraid to pit him against Strasburg. And you know what• He just might steal the show.

This would be a low-risk, high-reward proposition. A Lincoln win would force talking heads to tell the story of how a young Pirates pitcher upstaged the mighty Strasburg.

Heck, it would be the biggest Lincoln story in the nation's capital since the days of Honest Abe. Might make for some nice headlines around here, too ...

» Lincoln Inaugurated

» Lincoln Rules D.C.

» Lincoln's Debut Monumental

With two days to go, it's all in the Pirates' control. Here's hoping they realize the enormous upside.

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