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Pirates pitcher Lincoln is open to bullpen job assignment

Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012

BRADENTON, Fla. — Brad Lincoln wants to be a starting pitcher, but he won't make a fuss if his only ticket onto the Pirates' roster requires a move into the bullpen.

"You've got to be open to it," Lincoln said. "You can't be that stubborn guy who (says), 'If I'm not a starter, move me somewhere else.' I'm very open to whatever they want me to do. I take it as a challenge to make that 12-man pitching staff in Pittsburgh, whatever it takes."

Even before A.J. Burnett's arrival, Lincoln faced an uphill battle to crack the rotation. In 23 games over the past two seasons, the right-hander went 3-7 with a 5.74 ERA.

Management plans to use Lincoln as a starter for at least the first few weeks of spring training camp, giving the Pirates time to weigh their options.

The team likely has three open bullpen spots to go with righties Joel Hanrahan, Chris Resop, Jason Grilli and Evan Meek. Manager Clint Hurdle said he won't necessarily require two left-handers in the pen.

"We're going to take the best seven," Hurdle said. "We feel optimistic that we'll have two left-handers, but we'll see how it plays out."

A first-round pick in 2006, Lincoln, 26, has spent most of the past three seasons at Triple-A Indianapolis. This would seem to be a make-or-break year for him, as far as cementing a long-term role as a starter with the Pirates.

"I was asked in my meeting (with management) if I feel like a veteran yet," Lincoln said. "I was like, 'Well ... no.' This is my seventh spring, but I still feel like a kid at heart when I get on the grass and dirt to play ball."

Bombs away!

Players took live batting practice Friday as part of the first full-squad workout of the spring. Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen hit the two biggest shots.

On Field 2, Alvarez hit sharp line drives off Lincoln and reliever Evan Meek. On his next-to-last pitch from Meek, Alvarez swatted a towering home run over the batter's eye.

"That's what happens when the wind blows out," Alvarez said with a grin.

On Field 1, McCutchen jumped on the first pitch he got from Joel Hanrahan and blasted a 370-foot, opposite-field shot.

"I saw five pitches from (James McDonald), but I didn't see a strike," McCutchen said. "Hanrahan was the first one to throw me a strike."

Hanrahan's next pitch bounced about 20 feet in front of the plate.

Coonelly: Actions speak louder

Pirates president Frank Coonelly, on hand to watch the first full-squad workout, said he will do some sort of public service with an anti-drunken driving group. Coonelly got a friendly greeting from fans at Pirate City yesterday morning, a day after it was revealed he faces four charges stemming from a DUI incident Dec. 22 in Ross.

"I said publicly that I took responsibility for it," Coonelly said. "I've offered everybody in the organization a heartfelt apology. And I appreciate the support I've received as I move forward. Nothing that I say will speak louder than my actions as I move forward, in terms of lessons learned."

Coonelly indicated his public apology will include joining forces with an organization such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"I've learned lessons, and I intend to be supportive of organizations that work to make sure that type of conduct doesn't happen," Coonelly said. "Exactly how that will be done has not been determined yet."

Photo Galleries

2012 Pirates Spring Training

2012 Pirates Spring Training

Photos from Pirates spring training in Bradenton, Florida.




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