Pirates' Lincoln Not Quite Ready For Prime Time

BRADENTON, Fla.—When the Pirates cut top pitching prospect Brad Lincoln from major league camp March 15, they did so with a two-fold message:

1. Work on the changeup.

2. See you soon.

Lincoln, a 24-year-old righthander who was the team's No. 1 draft pick in 2006, is set to make his Pittsburgh debut this summer as one of management's top options at Triple-A Indianapolis. He split last season between Double-A Altoona and Indianapolis, combining to go 7-7, 3.37, in a career-best 136 innings following his 2007 Tommy John surgery.

All he has left to do in the minors, according to general manager Neal Huntington, is develop his changeup into an out pitch.

"It's probably the biggest challenge he's got, to be able to get major league hitters out from the right and left side, and to get enough separation between his fastball and changeup to make it have effect," Huntington said.

Lincoln's fastball sits at 91-93 mph, and he has a hammer curve. But two pitches will not get it done in the majors, especially with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan stressing the changeup to all his starters.

"I know that I have to grow as a pitcher, keep working on everything, and I'm going to continue doing that," Lincoln said.

No one is promising Lincoln he will make it to Pittsburgh this year, Huntington did say on the morning he was cut: "He made a really good impression. He's a guy who's going to be a phone call away. We were very impressed with Brad. He'll be a phone call away."

Lincoln, known among scouts for his fierce competitiveness on the mound, has made that debut his goal.

"It's my goal to work my way up and show these guys that I deserve to be there," Lincoln said. "It's been my dream my whole life, from when I was a kid to the Tommy John to now. And I hope to fulfill it this year."

Treasure Trove

• Three pitching prospects will miss the start of the minor league season: lefthander Colton Cain (back surgery), righthander Brett Lorin (hip surgery) and lefthander Zac Fuesser (broken finger).

• Lefthander Donnie Veal, the Pirates' Rule 5 draft pick in 2008, will join Lincoln in the Indianapolis rotation. Management sounds highly encouraged after he went 3-1, 2.14 in the Arizona Fall League.