Pirates sign 1st-round pick Lincoln
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Pirates first-round draft pick Brad Lincoln signed a contract with the team today.
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The Hummer and the physical stature gave Roger Clemens away when he showed up earlier this year at Cougar Field in Houston to watch his son, Koby, play in a spring league. Brad Lincoln would have known Clemens anyway, considering he has admired the future Hall of Fame pitcher and fellow Texan for years.
"He wasn't dressed up fancy or anything," said Lincoln, who was with the University of Houston. "I saw him in our stands and I went over and introduced myself to him, who I was, who I played for. We talked about pitching, about his career and about what it took to get where he was. I told him I had a pretty good chance of getting to move on, and we just talked about pro life.
"It was kind of intimidating [to approach him]. The size of the guy is incredible. He's just huge. But once we started talking, it was great to get to know the guy. He's a great guy."
Lincoln was right about the part where he gets a chance to move on. The right-hander was drafted in the first round, fourth overall, by the Pirates June 6.
No one is predicting the 6-foot, 200-pound 21-year-old will match the 341 major-league wins that Clemens has, but the Pirates seemed pretty pumped about signing him yesterday and dispatching him last night to Bradenton to work with the rookie-league players and staff.
"He can mix the fastball, curveball, changeup and is very effective with all three pitches," Pirates general manager David Littlefield said when the club introduced Lincoln to the media yesterday at PNC Park.
"He's also got that package of maturity. He's aggressive on the field, very competitive, yet not a real emotional, high-strung person. I think that's a great asset for a pitcher."
Lincoln, a native of Clute, Texas, got a signing bonus of about $2.75 million. He'll spend what figures to be a relatively short time in Bradenton, throwing in the bullpen and perhaps in a Gulf Coast League game or two before moving up to Class A Hickory or perhaps Class A Lynchburg.
Littlefield described negotiations with Lincoln and his representative, Peter Vescovo, as "smoother than most." Lincoln explained why.
"To get it done and get out and get my feet wet, to play, that was my plan," he said.
"I didn't want to be one of the guys to hold out until December or January. I think it's good for me that I'm going to experience this such a short time after college ball."
Lincoln said his confidence bulked up in a strong season in the Cape Cod League last summer, and that led to a consensus All-American season this year at Houston. As a junior, he was 12-2 with a 1.69 ERA, three complete games, two shutouts and 151 strikeouts in 17 starts. His fastball topped out at 97 mph.
As a designated hitter, he batted .295 with 12 doubles, 14 homers and 53 RBIs in 61 games.
In the past week, Lincoln has won the Dick Howser Trophy, considered the Heisman of baseball, and was named the American Coaches Association/Rawlings player of the year.
He's a finalist for another player of the year honor, the Brooks Wallace Award, and for -- fittingly enough -- the Roger Clemens Award, which goes to the top collegiate pitcher.
Lincoln has been a Clemens fan for years.
"He's a big-timer in my eyes -- his work ethic and the way he carries himself on and off the field," Lincoln said. "I grew up watching him with the [New York] Yankees and now the [Houston] Astros."
Lincoln was a quarterback for Brazoswood High School through his sophomore year, then concentrated on baseball.
He did not grow up watching the Pirates.
Although he can't remember a time when the Pirates were winning, Lincoln was wide-eyed during a tour of PNC Park, including his first visit to a major-league clubhouse.
Pressed on when he hopes to return to the North Shore park as a member of the big-league club, Lincoln said perhaps in two or three years.
In the meantime, he said he might splurge on a vehicle with his signing bonus, but will bank most of it. He is content to remain low-key and work his way through the minor-league system.
"If there's some dirt in a hill out in the middle of a field, I'm ready to play," he said.
First Published June 22, 2006 12:00 am