WEEKLY PIRATES REPORT
*Analysis, Rumblings, & Musings*
By John Perrotto
Brad Lincoln has a pretty good sense of humor, which is why he isn't scared to joke about being "the guy the Pirates took instead of Tim Lincecum."
The Pirates chose Lincoln with the fourth overall selection in the 2006 amateur draft from the University of Houston. The Pirates felt Lincoln was a safer pick than Lincecum, then the ace at the University of Washington, because he had much cleaner mechanics and better makeup.
Lincecum has gone on to win two National League Cy Young Awards. Lincoln, on the other hand, has won just four major-league games.
However, at 27, Lincoln seems to be finally starting to blossom, albeit in a different role than the Pirates envisioned when they drafted him.
Lincoln has made five relief appearances this season and posted a fine 0.87 ERA as he has allowed one run and six hits in 10 1/3 innings with five walks and 11 strikeouts. While the walks are a little troublesome along with 30.4 percent of the balls put in play against him being line drives,the rest of the numbers are impressive.
Also impressive has been Lincoln's velocity as his fastball is averaging 93.3 mph, up from 91.8 mph during the 47 2/3 innings he pitched last season over eight starts and four relief appearances.
There has been sentiment in some corners of the Pirates' organization over the past few years that Lincoln should move to the bullpen. Some members of both the front office and field staff believed Lincoln's mentality was better suited to relief work where he could go all out for an inning or two.
Manager Clint Hurdle has been in that group and has been so impressed with Lincoln's bullpen work so far this season that he is contemplating taking him out of the long relief role and letting him pitch in important spots later in games.
For his part, Lincoln has long said he has no preference about this role.
I'll do whatever it takes to stay here," Lincoln said.
It appears relief is Lincoln's best chance to stay and he has the potential to be a good set-up man and maybe even develop into a closer. That isn't likely to ever equal what Lincecum has done but it would certainly be better than nothing.
In other matters:
-- One Yankees person had this to say about A.J. Burnett after they traded him to the Pirates just before the start of spring training: "His stuff is still decent, good enough to beat National League teams but not good enough to beat American League East teams."
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the few NL teams with a lineup that is even a reasonable facsimile to an AL East team. Burnett has faced the Cardinals twice in his first three starts with the Pirates, shutting them out for seven innings the first time then getting rocked for 12 runs in 2 2/3 innings on Wednesday night.
So which start is really indicative of Burnett? Probably neither but Wednesday's outing was disturbing.
--Third baseman Pedro Alvarez's recent surge has been a pleasant development for the Pirates but right behind it has been right fielder Jose Tabata who's batting .359 in his last nine games. The best chance the Pirates' offense has of even being average this season is if Tabata and left fielder Alex Presley get on base consistently at the top of the order.
--The Pirates usually prefer to methodical move their prospects through the farm system but one scout who has been watching high Class A Bradenton thinks they will have to make an exception with 20-year-old right-hander Jameson Taillon, who is 1-1 with a 1.46 ERA and a 28/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 24 2/3 innings.
"For me, he's ready for Double-A right now and once you're at that level then you're on the doorstep of the major leagues," the scout said.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates and Major League Baseball for 25 years.