Cook: Pirates need someone better than Lincoln
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It's probably safe to say the Pirates can't always count on Pedro Alvarez to hit two home runs in consecutive games and drive in six runs, as he did Sunday in their 9-5 win against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. It's also likely they can't depend on the opposing team's All-Star shortstop to do his worst to hand them a win. The Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera had three errors Sunday and made a baserunning mistake worse than any of Jose Tabata's this season. It's one thing to kick the ball around at short. It happens to the best occasionally. It's something much worse to jog out of the batter's box after you hit a ball off the right-field wall, then get thrown out at second base in the ninth inning with your team down four runs.
Thank you very much!
Sure, the Pirates beat the Indians to take another series. Give 'em credit for that. A 2-4 trip to Baltimore and Cleveland doesn't seem so bad after it started 0-4.
But the Pirates are going to need much better starting pitching to win most games.
They need better than Brad Lincoln.
It makes perfect sense to stick with Alvarez through hard times. He has wonderful power, as he showed again. It even makes some sense to hang in there with Clint Barmes despite his .188 batting average. Cabrera wishes he would have had half the defensive game that Barmes did Sunday.
What has he done?
Why in the world are the Pirates being so patient with him?
For the third consecutive start, Lincoln was mostly awful. This time, he didn't get out of the fourth inning. He was excused for the day by manager Clint Hurdle after allowing a shot to left by Shin-Soo Choo that went for a two-run double that gave the Indians a 4-3 lead. Later, Hurdle said, "That ball needs to be caught [by left fielder Alex Presley]." But Hurdle still had seen enough of Lincoln.
Haven't we all?
"At the end of the day, they still put the barrel of the bat on the ball a little more than you would expect with his stuff," Hurdle said.
Hurdle talked of mechanical issues with Lincoln and said it seems as if it's easy for opposing hitters to see his pitches. That sounds like something that needs to be corrected in the bullpen -- where Lincoln was highly effective earlier in the season -- or even at Class AAA Indianapolis. Figuring it out on the mound in a big league game simply will not do.
The Pirates are struggling enough at the back of the rotation. Kevin Correia, who gets the start Tuesday night against the Minnesota Twins at PNC Park, is 1-6 in his past nine starts with a 4.43 ERA. Erik Bedard, who starts Wednesday night, is 2-3 with a 6.39 ERA in his past six starts. The team can't afford to keep carrying Lincoln and his baggage.
It's not as if the Pirates don't have options even with Charlie Morton out for the season after Tommy John elbow surgery. Hurdle talked late last week of considering a promotion for any of four Indianapolis pitchers -- Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, Justin Wilson and Rick VandenHurk. In one breath, general manager Neal Huntington said before the game Sunday that he would have confidence in any of the four coming up to make a start. But in the next breath, Huntington indicated the strategy -- "as we stand here today" -- is to stick with Lincoln at least until Jeff Karstens is ready to step back into the rotation.
This is all Karstens' fault, you know? It's a shame he came down with a hip problem on top of a sore shoulder. He would have made the past two starts in Lincoln's spot. He's looking at two more rehabilitation starts in the minors before he is activated. Hurdle guessed that will be around July 1.
Maybe this latest Lincoln performance will make Huntington change his mind. Maybe he will see the wisdom in reaching down for one of the Indianapolis guys. The man he chooses can't be worse, right?
If a pitcher isn't promoted, Lincoln will make another start Saturday against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park. It's hard to imagine a lot of people wanting to see that.
Other than the Tigers, of course.
First Published June 18, 2012 12:00 am