By John Perrotto
A convergence of events on Monday night at PNC Park could conceivably change the course of Brad Lincoln’s career.
Before the first game of a doubleheader against Milwaukee, right-hander Kevin Correia felt pain in his left side while throwing a between-starts bullpen session and was placed on the disabled list with a strained oblique. After the Pirates lost 8-1 to the Brewers in the opener, Lincoln pitched well in the second game as the Pirates prevailed 9-2 to end their 13-game losing streak against the Brewers.
Lincoln had to settle for a no-decision as the Pirates erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to snap a 2-2 tie but the right-hander pitched six strong innings, allowing two runs and three hits while walking one and striking out one. On a pitch limit because he has been working strictly in relief since being recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis for the second time this season on Aug. 6, Lincoln got his 18 outs on an economical 76 pitches.
Lincoln now moves into the starting rotation with Correia and left-hander Paul Maholm (shoulder) both on the DL. Hurdle did not immediately say where he will slot Lincoln among the starting five.
“We’re going to give him the ball and see where he can take us,” Hurdle said.
“Everything happens for a reason. This opportunity presents itself to Brad. If he had his druthers, he’d rather start. He’s got an edge to him when he’s out there. We’ll see how it plays out. He wants to be a guy you can depend on to give him the ball every fifth day. He’s been a mixed bag out of the bullpen but both times he’s started this season he’s been very, very effective.”
Lincoln made a spot start at Washington on July 2 in another no-decision, giving up two runs and four hits in six innings with three walks and four strikeouts.
Lincoln is still trying to get established in the major leagues at 26, five years after the Pirates used their first- round pick in the 2006 first-year player draft to select him from the University of Houston. The Pirates grabbed Lincoln at No. 4 overall in a pitching-rich draft while bypassing such current major-league starters as Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Brandon Morrow.
“It’s time to get my career going,” Lincoln said. “I’d love a chance to be in the rotation. It’s just something I’ve done my whole career. It was a relaxed feeling out there tonight.”
Lincoln got off to a shaky start, though. Corey Hart hit the second pitch of the game into the bullpens in center field for a home run. Nyjer Morgan followed by lining a single back through the box, Lincoln being forced to hit the deck to avoid being injured.
Morgan eventually scored on a fielder’s choice but Lincoln allowed only one hit after that, a fifth-inning single by Hart.
Lincoln struggled last season as a rookie, going 1-4 with a 6.57 ERA in nine starts. However, he showed Monday night that there is some reason to believe he was worth the Pirates using such a high pick five years ago.
“He righted himself, gathered himself after the first two batters and was outstanding,” Hurdle said. “He had good fastball command down in the zone, a tight breaking ball and a good changeup. I really liked what I saw.”
John Perrotto has been covering the Pirates and Major League Baseball since 1988.