Pirates change up plans, send down Lincoln
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Right-handed pitcher Brad Lincoln said he feels it's only a matter of time before he makes it to the majors with the Bucs.

BRADENTON, Fla. Brad Lincoln knows he's close.

The fourth overall pick in 2006, the Pirates' right-handed pitcher said he feels it's only a matter of time before he makes it to the major leagues. General manager Neal Huntington seems to agree.

But if making it and making it for good means a little more seasoning in Triple-A Indianapolis, where Lincoln was optioned Monday, he's OK with that.

"I feel like I'm right on the verge," he said. "It's just one of those things where I have to polish some things, master a little more, maybe get a little more education. Once I do get up, I want to be prepared to the fullest. And once I get up, I want to be up to stay."

Lincoln, who had an outside shot at landing the No. 5 spot in the rotation, was one of seven players the team sent down Monday, following six moves Sunday. The number of active players in major-league camp sits at 47.

Lefty Donnie Veal was also optioned to Indianapolis, where he'll be in the rotation. Right-hander Bryan Morris was optioned to Single-A Bradenton. Four players were reassigned to minor-league camp: catcher Tony Sanchez, who will start the year in Bradenton, and right-handers Jeff Sues and Virgil Vasquez and lefty Justin Thomas, who are competing for a job with Indianapolis.

For Lincoln, who had a 3.00 ERA in three innings pitched in two games (one start), the move is a chance to get the starts and innings he needs to begin the season. Huntington said he was happy with Lincoln's breaking ball and his ability to throw it for strikes and make batters chase it. That and fastball command are going to be keys for the 24-year-old, who split last year between Double-A and Triple-A.

Lincoln's most pressing assignment is to gain consistency and confidence in his changeup.

"It's still a work in progress, and that's probably the biggest challenge that he's got to come back here," Huntington said. "(He needs) to trust it and to get enough separation between his fastball and his changeup to make it have effect."

Lincoln said his changeup has come a long way since last year, and he has been using it a lot more in his outings. But he also realizes it's holding back his transition to the majors.

"It's something I do need to work on and master if I want to be a starting pitcher in the big leagues," he said. "I'm going to have to have more than two pitches."

In the meantime, Huntington said, Lincoln is only a phone call away.

"If he goes out and does what he's capable of, we're going to need more than five starters," Huntington said. "He's definitely a depth starter for us and can force his way into more than that."

[HIGH-LIGHT]NOTES:[/HIGH-LIGHT] Reliever Joel Hanrahan (sore right elbow) threw off the mound for the first time and said he felt good during the 30-pitch session. "Threw a couple strikes, so it was good to get up there again," said the right-hander, who was diagnosed with a strained right flexor-pronator. ... Closer Octavio Dotel threw batting practice for the first time and is expected to pitch in a minor-league game Wednesday at Pirate City.