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Thread: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

      
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    Default Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Lincoln may be ready to live up to potential
    Pirates' top pitching prospect to compete for rotation spot



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    By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
    02/25/10 5:44 PM EST

    BRADENTON, Fla. -- Tim Lincecum has two National League Cy Young Awards displayed in his home. Evan Longoria has an American League Rookie of the Year Award and an AL Gold Glove to his name. Clayton Kershaw has made five postseason starts.

    And up to this point, all Brad Lincoln has been able to do is admire from afar.

    Lincoln was selected one spot after Longoria and just ahead of Kershaw (No. 7) and Lincecum (No. 10) when the Pirates took him with the fourth overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. His command was touted by Baseball America as the best among all college pitchers that year, and his curveball was compared to that of Ben Sheets. Having had time to polish his skills at the University of Houston, the consensus was that Lincoln was on the fast track up.
    But on the first day of Spring Training the following year, Lincoln was shelved with a right elbow injury. Seven weeks later, he'd be undergoing season-ending ligament surgery. All those projections about how quickly Lincoln would be making his debut in Pittsburgh were replaced by concerns about whether he would fully recover.
    Well, he did. And now he's ready to add to the accolades of that '06 class.

    "Sometimes I think about guys who were in my Draft class and the way they are doing now and I think, 'What if I didn't get that arm injury?'" Lincoln said in his first time back at Major League camp since the elbow injury. "'Could I be doing that?'"

    Lincoln may not have gotten out of the gate as quickly as some of his Draft classmates, but he appears on the verge of establishing himself as a big league pitcher real soon.

    The 24-year-old Texan is mentioned along with Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen as a legitimate candidate for the Pirates' vacant rotation spot. And while it's unlikely that Pittsburgh will go with Lincoln to start the season, he has every intention of making the decision a hard one.

    "You hear the saying that I'm the third guy in line for the fifth spot, but I'm going to go out every day and give it my all," said Lincoln, the organization's top pitching prospect. "Whatever happens at the end of spring, that's what it is. But every day, I come in with that mind-set that I'm pitching for a spot on the Opening Day roster."

    If nothing else, Lincoln's continued development this spring will give the Pirates an idea of just how close the right-hander really is. Director of player development Kyle Stark has already talked about how well Lincoln matches up with those other fifth-starter candidates. And pitching coach Joe Kerrigan was raving about his pupil on Day 3.

    "Lincoln's got the big arm," Kerrigan said. "He's got the stuff. He's the type of guy that can overpower you. That's a pretty good option to have."

    Lincoln comes armed with a fastball-curveball mix that has taken no hit from the arm surgery. He split the '09 season between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, going 7-7 with a 3.37 ERA. Lincoln was especially overpowering with Altoona, where he struck out 65 and posted a 2.28 ERA in 75 innings. The right-hander finished the year with 107 strikeouts and only 28 walks in 136 1/3 innings.
    His continued development of a changeup is something that the Pirates are convinced will make the righty that much more dangerous. It is a pitch that Lincoln threw some in the past, but never one he felt comfortable relying on.

    But when the organization forced Lincoln to use the pitch regularly in Triple-A last year, things slowly started to click.

    "It's come a long, long ways," Lincoln said. "It's been a long hard road. Last year, they were making me throw it in games, and I was still kind of leery about throwing it, because I didn't want to get hurt with it. I worked on it in the offseason and now it's working."

    The changeup should particularly be an asset in helping Lincoln be more effective against left-handed hitters, who hit a combined .352 against him in 12 Indianapolis starts.

    "It is a weapon," Stark said. "He's got to have confidence to use it and then knowledge on how to use it. We fully expect it to get more consistent."

    Lincoln's Triple-A numbers suffered a bit early on while he worked to master the pitch, though the right-hander ended the season with four wins in as many starts. The latter two were both shutouts.
    Lincoln rolled that into a successful stint with Team USA in last September's World Cup. He finished the tournament with three wins, including a victory in the team's gold medal game against Cuba.
    "It's something I'll never forget," Lincoln said of that final World Cup win.

    For all the what-ifs he could be asking, the truth is that Lincoln seems perfectly content with what he's accomplished so far and where his career appears headed. Those high expectations that were attached to his name on Draft Day? Lincoln wants them all back. Everything may not have happened on the timetable he imagined, but Lincoln is proving that a detour can't stop the drive.

    "I just want to keep working hard and stay injury free," Lincoln said. "I'm happy with where I am now. This year is going to be exciting."

    Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Lincoln's Triple-A numbers suffered a bit early on while he worked to master the pitch, though the right-hander ended the season with four wins in as many starts. The latter two were both shutouts.
    Had no idea about them forcing the changeup on him at AAA. I'd have assumed they'd have worked him on that in AA but perhaps they were trying to just get whatever he "had" back and performing well before throwing new stuff at him. At least that's the way it looks. He looked to be nearing where he was pre-injury in many cases before hitting AAA and forced to use the change more.

    It really should be interesting to see how he does this season. no way he makes the roster out of camp without injuries but the progresion of the changeup and his overall game should be interesting. Starks is right, if he gets that changeup down, Lincoln could be very dangerous

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    That draft was the first time I really started paying attention to the MLB draft.

    I was really excited when we picked up Lincoln for many of the reasons the article notes.

    He doing really well will cause Maholm/Duke to be in a different jersey here soon.

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Quote Originally Posted by wvkeeper View Post
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    That draft was the first time I really started paying attention to the MLB draft.

    I was really excited when we picked up Lincoln for many of the reasons the article notes.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]He doing really well will cause Maholm/Duke to be in a different jersey here soon[/HIGH-LIGHT].
    and the hairbrained citizens and newspaper journalists will revolt

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Quote Originally Posted by irahuss View Post
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    and the hairbrained citizens and newspaper journalists will revolt
    You know it!

    Pittsburgh Media - Overrating average players for decades

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    I believe that Lincoln will be up around June-July. I don't necessarily want to see Maholm or Duke traded at that point though. I would rather just see the least productive starter removed from the rotation. I feel that a team needs at least 6 starting pitchers to get through a season.

    It would be different if everyone were pitching well, and a good return could be netted. I just don't want a knee-jerk reaction of trading a decent starter away. What I don't want to see is a Vazquez type of pitcher making 15-20 starts for the team.

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Quote Originally Posted by Kipper View Post
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    Had no idea about them forcing the changeup on him at AAA. I'd have assumed they'd have worked him on that in AA but perhaps they were trying to just get whatever he "had" back and performing well before throwing new stuff at him. At least that's the way it looks. He looked to be nearing where he was pre-injury in many cases before hitting AAA and forced to use the change more.

    It really should be interesting to see how he does this season. no way he makes the roster out of camp without injuries but the progresion of the changeup and his overall game should be interesting. Starks is right, if he gets that changeup down, Lincoln could be very dangerous
    KS has been quoted many times saying that AA is where ML'ers are made and AAA is more of a finishing school. That's probably why management forced Lincoln to work on his change in AAA to put the finishing touches on his repertoire.

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Quote Originally Posted by PittFaninVa View Post
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    KS has been quoted many times saying that AA is where ML'ers are made and AAA is more of a finishing school. That's probably why management forced Lincoln to work on his change in AAA to put the finishing touches on his repertoire.
    Quite possible. I think also coming off the injury, the time frame there in general put Lincoln at a path to begin working on his changeup at AAA.

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Interesting comments from Stark about the purpose of the various steps on the minor league ladder. Seems to me that Triple A was once viewed as being more necessary for a prospect's development than it is now. These days it's more like the old NFL "taxi squad" or a place to stash rehabbing former prospects from another organization than it is a place to further develop your own whiz kids. The Pirates, though, seem to have taken the more "traditional" route with their "can't miss" guys like Andrew McCutchen and---very likely this season---Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez. All will probably spend at least the equivalent of a full season at Triple A.

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Quote Originally Posted by williamjpellas View Post
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    Interesting comments from Stark about the purpose of the various steps on the minor league ladder. Seems to me that Triple A was once viewed as being more necessary for a prospect's development than it is now. These days it's more like the old NFL "taxi squad" or a place to stash rehabbing former prospects from another organization than it is a place to further develop your own whiz kids. The Pirates, though, seem to have taken the more "traditional" route with their "can't miss" guys like Andrew McCutchen and---very likely this season---Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez. All will probably spend at least the equivalent of a full season at Triple A.
    Most players spend a season or so at AAA. Not just the Pirates doing this. There's still development to be had with players. It's just a different stage

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    Default Re: Lincoln Getting Much Closer

    Jayson Stark = John Clayton

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