Pitcher Lincoln gets closer to Pirates' debut
As per Major League Baseball custom regarding prospects, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is playing it coy and cool on pitcher Brad Lincoln's impending arrival from Triple-A Indianapolis. On his Sunday radio show, Huntington said Lincoln is "a lot closer" than a few starts ago, but went no further.
The only meaningful offerings are coming from Lincoln himself — on the mound — and they indicate the wait appears to be short.
Except for one shaky inning in Toledo on Monday, Lincoln made another statement. The right-hander had a career-best 10 strikeouts — twice striking out the side — walked one and yielded just four hits in seven innings. The problem was the sixth. That's when all of the hits came, including Brent Dlugach's three-run homer, as the Mud Hens beat the Indians, 3-0.
In a game that started at 10:30 a.m., Toledo's bats remained asleep until the big inning, as Lincoln (4-2) retired the first 16 batters.
"It seemed like they were guessing, and I was at the advantage," he said.
After an inconsistent April, he has a 2.57 earned run average in three May starts, with 21 strikeouts and three walks.
"I'm getting there," Lincoln said over the weekend in Toledo. "There's still some glitches, still some work that needs to be done. We've been doing that in the bullpen sessions and getting some things straightened out with my delivery."
Huntington said in an e-mail (he was in meetings yesterday) that Lincoln continues to progress.
"His fastball command (in, out and down), the consistency of his breaking ball for quality strikes and the use and quality of his changeup continue to improve and/or return to prior levels," he said.
Lincoln's fastball reaches 96 mph and he has a decent curve. The challenge has been refining a changeup that scouts had considered average.
"It's just a matter of being more consistent with it," he said. "Being able to trust it in a game. Striking people out with it and stuff like that is something I need to develop on a more consistent basis with every start.
"If I want to be a starter, here or anywhere, I need to develop that third pitch," he said. "It's making the other team think, 'Hey, he's got this pitch. He's got it to where he can throw it in certain counts.' It's come a long way.' "
Mastering the changeup is difficult because the pitcher has to throw it with the arm motion and speed of a fastball. Only the grip is different.
"You have to learn to just throw it," Lincoln said. "Throw it like a fastball and think 'fastball.' That's a big key. Don't try to change your delivery to change a pitch."
Indianapolis manager Frank Kremblas said Lincoln was throwing the changeup too hard. Now the contrast with his fastball is greater.
"It's actually got some action to it, a little sink, a little run to it," Kremblas said. "And he's been able to command it a little better. He's getting close."
That's a testament to Lincoln's perseverance as much as his ability. The fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft from the University of Houston, he suffered a torn elbow ligament that required Tommy John surgery. It caused him to miss all of the 2007 season and threatened his career.
"It was a pretty emotional roller-coaster for me when I found out I had to have surgery," he said. "It was definitely a big hit to me, and I feel fortunate to be where I am.
"It's one of those things I took pride in, my rehab. I was in there every day. I know what kind of person I am. I'm gonna push myself to the breaking point of almost doing too much. I was always telling myself that, hey, in the long run, this is gonna work out."
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