Moments after their fourth consecutive loss -- and the fourth consecutive start by Brad Lincoln without a victory -- the Pirates announced a reshuffling of their pitching staff, designating veteran leader Brendan Donnelly for assignment and returning Lincoln to Class AAA Indianapolis to rediscover his touch.
They have 10 days to waive or trade Donnelly, who could accept an assignment to the minors, though that's doubtful.
Reliever Donnelly believed his departure was related to economics: incentives in his contract for games pitched had kicked in, and his $1.35 million salary could almost double in a short span. He met with Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington and Manager John Russell after the Pirates' 6-3 loss today, then was surrounded by no fewer than one-third of the rest of the clubhouse to try to explain his unexpected departure to teammates.
"I've been released a few times in my career. Usually, you have a hunch," said Donnelly, who added that Huntington tried but was unable to find any takers in trade. "This one I didn't see coming at all. ... They're moving forward and that's fine. I don't know what their definition of 'moving forward' is, but we'll see."
"He was the only leader. ... that would step up and say stuff and not care," added reliever Evan Meek, who along with Joel Hanrahan were pet clubhouse projects assigned to Donnelly. "Any time you make a trade or get rid of a leader in your clubhouse, it's not going to be popular. There's a business side to the game, obviously."
As for Lincoln, he allowed more than five earned runs for the third time in his past four starts and needed to return to Indianapolis to regain mechanics that, Huntington said, changed over his nine major-league starts. Lincoln's velocity fell by as much as 5 mph from that of his Class AAA time earlier this season.
"Just clear my head," Lincoln said. "For me, it's probably the best move."
The Pirates will need to locate a starter for Saturday in St. Louis and another arm for the bullpen, though they declined to announce any corresponding moves until Tuesday -- when they resume play in Colorado.