Struggling Lincoln gets big vote of confidence
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BALTIMORE -- The ink on the scorecard was barely dry Tuesday night when manager Clint Hurdle gave a vote of confidence to pitcher Brad Lincoln.
Lincoln has struggled in consecutive starts, but Hurdle said he still planned to have the right-handed pitcher start Sunday against the Cleveland Indians.
"We need him to pitch better, and he knows that," Hurdle said.
Lincoln said it was meaningful that Hurdle wanted to give him another start.
"It says something that they still believe in me and they want to see me do well out there and they have the confidence in me to give the team a chance to win every time they put me out there," he said.
The Pirates recalled Lincoln from Class AAA Indianapolis in April after starter Jeff Karstens went on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. He has been used primarily in long relief, where he has excelled. But he has been inconsistent in three spot starts.
His first, against the Miami Marlins May 14, was an impressive display in which he allowed two earned runs and four hits in six innings to earn his then-team leading third win. But he has been much less successful in his past two starts, allowing five earned runs and six hits in four innings of a loss against Cincinnati last week and four earned runs in a loss Tuesday against Baltimore.
"I don't know if he's going to stay in the rotation," Hurdle said. "We've got the option, if he doesn't pitch better, to put him in the bullpen."
In addition to Karstens, the Pirates have starter Charlie Morton (elbow inflammation) on the 15-day disabled list. His absence created the starting opportunity for Lincoln, but Morton could return to the rotation soon.
Hurdle said he is not sure how much of Lincoln's struggles stem from his mentality on the mound.
"He was so good and he's been so efficient when he's been very aggressive," said Hurdle, who also noted that Lincoln's velocity has dropped in his past two starts.
Lincoln's four-seam fastball was slower Tuesday than his season average, according to Fangraphs.com. His average four-seam pitch speed was 91.4 mph. His season average for that pitch is 92.8, and it has touched 95 on occasion. His two-seam fastball averaged 90.2 Tuesday, averages 91.8 this season and has scraped 96 on occasion.
The Pirates announced the signings of eight draft picks Wednesday, including three players selected in the first 10 rounds.
They signed sixth-round pick infielder Eric Wood, seventh-round pick catcher Jake Stallings, 10th-round pick pitcher Pat Ludwig and five others selected in the first 25 rounds. Wood will report to the Gulf Coast League Pirates the other seven will report to State College. Stallings and Ludwig were college seniors, and their signings likely created room in the bonus pool the team can offer other early picks, including first-rounder Mark Appel.
Right-handed reliever Chris Leroux, on the 60-day DL with a strained right pectoral muscle, finished his third scoreless rehabilitation outing Tuesday and will have a couple more scheduled outings with Class AAA Indianapolis.
After that, the Pirates will keep Leroux in Indianapolis on a rehab assignment, and he will be inserted in the bullpen in an effort to simulate what his role would be if the Pirates activate him. He is out of options.
First Published June 14, 2012 12:00 am