By John Perrotto
Brad Lincoln is known for his competitiveness as much as his fastball and curveball. However, that competitiveness seems to be working against the Pirates rookie right-hander in the early stages of his major-league career.
Lincoln suffered his first loss on Tuesday night in his second start as he gave up five runs and six hits in six innings in the White Sox’s 6-4 victory over the Pirates at PNC Park. That came after Lincoln allowed five runs and six innings in a no-decision at Washington last Wednesday in his debut.
Lincoln also walked three and struck out just two on Tuesday night.
“I’m letting the game speed up on me,” Lincoln said. “It feels like everything is going 100 mph when I’m on the mound. I’ll get into trouble and then I’ll try to make the perfect but when you do that it only makes things worse. I know I’ll get better. I just need to calm down and slow things down, and I will. It’s a learning experience.”
Lincoln threw 98 pitches, 61 for strikes. His fastball topped out at 94 mph and averaged 91. However, his curveball was a much more effective pitch as the White Sox went 1-for-7 (.143) against it while going 5-for-15 (.333) against the fastball.
Lincoln was far from dominating with his offerings as the White Sox swung at missed at just four pitches, only one by a left-handed hitter. He also got hitters to chase just eight of his 46 pitches that were outside the strike zone.
While the curveball was Lincoln’s best pitch Tuesday night, Pirates manager John Russell fears he is relying too much on it. Lincoln threw 28 curves, 65 fastballs and five changeups.
“I’d like to see Brad be more aggressive with the fastball, especially early in the game and when he is pitching with a lead,” Russell said. “He has a good curveball but he also has a good fastball and he’s going to need to establish it to be successful at this level.”
One week after Lincoln and left fielder Jose Tabata made their major-league debuts against the Nationals at Washington, third baseman Pedro Alvarez is scheduled to make his debut Wednesday night when the Pirates host the White Sox in the middle game of the three-game interleague series.
The Pirates plan to call their top-rated prospect up from Class AAA Indianapolis, where he is hitting .280 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 65 games.
This is the most highly anticipated debut by a Pirates’ player since Barry Bonds played his first game on May 30, 1986 on his way to becoming baseball’s all-time home run leader.
Before anyone expects Alvarez to step in become the savior of a franchise that has endured 17 consecutive losing seasons, keep in mind that Bonds went 0-for-5 with a walk and three strikeouts that night against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Three Rivers Stadium on his way to hitting just .223 in 113 games that season.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates for 23 years, is the editor-in-chief of BaseballProspectus.com and baseball columnist at the Beaver County Times.