Since being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis on April 18, Brad Lincoln was used in relief with the Pittsburgh Pirates. And in that role, the right-hander was very good. He entered game action with just an 0.63 ERA over 14.1 innings, which is third-best in the National League among relievers.
“Whatever’s in play now -– it’s the best we’ve seen him. The most consistent we’ve ever seen him. The sharpest stuff we’ve ever seen from him,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said.
Lincoln made two starts with Triple-A before joining the big league club –his last coming on April 13. After lefty Erik Bedard exited his last start with back spasms, Lincoln was the first to be called on from the ‘pen. He went on to toss three innings, not allowing an earned run. Bedard’s start was bumped to this Wednesday in Washington, giving Lincoln the opportunity to get a spot start.
And he stepped up.
Lincoln allowed two runs on four hits over six innings. He walked one and striking out three while throwing 80 pitches, 54 for strikes. The right-hander was sitting around 92-94 after seeing his fastball around 94-96 from the bullpen.
With the way the starting staff has been pitching — they entered game action ranked No. 2 in all of baseball with a staff ERA of 3.15 — Lincoln will likely return to the bullpen after his spot start. However, the 26-year-old could get the opportunity to get another shot in the rotation if one of the starters gets injured or struggles.
“When he’s throwing the ball the way he’s throwing up here recently, he can be a good starter, or he can be a good late inning reliever,” General Manager Neal Huntington said. “Low to mid-90’s fastball with life to it, power breaking ball and good use of the changeup, he can be effective in any role.”
Lincoln has posted a 1.33 ERA over his 20.1 innings. Although he has spent parts of three seasons in the Majors in Pittsburgh, the righty credits this year’s learning experience for his success.
“The more experience you get, the better you get at it,” Lincoln said. “The more you’re able to read hitters and understand what they’re trying to do in certain situations. That’s a big key for me.”
McLouth Needs to Produce
When the Pirates signed outfielder Nate McLouth over the offseason to a one-year deal, the veteran knew it would be as a fourth outfielder and not an everyday role. While playing in Pittsburgh before being traded to Atlanta, McLouth was an everyday player. McLouth battled injuries while with the Braves, but now back with the Pirates, he still hasn’t produced.
McLouth has hit just .178/.260/.222 over 45 at-bats. With Alex Presley in a slump, Hurdle has given McLouth more opportunity to produce. The outfielder got the start on Friday and is hitless over his last five games.
“It needs to be about production now,” Hurdle said. “It needs to be about finding a way to score runs and getting things moving forward…This is not your normal fourth outfielder. He has played an All-Star game. He’s got one of these gloves with Gold on the back of it.”
“He wants to be involved. He’s waited. He’s been impatient. He’s worked hard. When opportunities present themselves, he’s trying to take them as they come. He’s not trying to do too much because the first couple times he went out there the mind set was, ‘you know, if I hit a couple homers, I’ll be in the lineup.’ that doesn’t usually work out that way.”
Hurdle said he’s been working on some adjustments at the plate and just needs to trust that work and put it use into the game.
No Rift Happening in this Clubhouse
The Pirates took a tough loss on Friday night, losing 1-0 after right-hander James McDonald made an impressive start. The Bucs offense has showed signs of potential, but hasn’t been able to put it together on a consistent basis.
After McDonald received the tough luck loss — despite allowing just one run on four hits over 8.0 innings — he said after the game that he knows the offense will come around.
“I’ve been that guy on the mound where I’m getting shelled, and my guys still believe in me, stayed behind me, played hard,” McDonald said. “They played hard behind me, good defense, good effort, tried the best they can. That’s all you can ask for.”
So the question was brought up. Is there a rift between the pitchers and hitters? The pitching continues to shine, while the offense continues to attempt to break out of the inconsistency.
Hurdle said, absolutely not.
“I’ve been in environments where it has happened. I don’t have any sense of that here,” Hurdle said. “I know that the cohesiveness here has been very, very good. The conversations that I have with the pitchers or the hitters conversely, we all need to take care of what we need to take care of. It’s individual responsibility aimed towards collective gain. There’s times where the pitchers go up there and they don’t perform well and the guys behind them have to bust their backsides, make plays, do whatever to keep things intact, keep the game together.”
“On the other side of it, the pitchers they control things that go off the mound. That’s what are guys are doing very well right now. They’ve been very professional about it. They understand the effort. They see the effort, the frustration, all those things going on in the dugout. I know they’re working together. They’re all confident that we’re going to pull through it and get on the other side of it.”
Karstens Could Make Rehab Start Soon
Right-hander Jeff Karstens continues to progress from right shoulder inflammation. Hurdle said on Sunday that they were looking to get him to throw a simulated session before the end of this upcoming weekend. General Manager Neal Huntington said on Sunday afternoon that he is continuing to work through a mound program, and a rehab start could be in the near future.
“Depending upon how each one of those steps goes, the next step is created,” Huntington said. “It’s certainly a progression as he goes through a sim game. If all of that goes well, and he feels like he’s ready to tackle a rehab then we’ll go.”