With Erik Bedard out until at least Wednesday with his back spasms, Brad Lincoln will get a spot start for the Pirates in Miami tonight. Lincoln’s been pretty impressive in a handful of relief appearances this year; in 14 1/3 innings, he has 16 strikeouts and held the opposition to just nine hits, giving him a 0.62 ERA and a FIP of 2.91. Lincoln’s struggled with missing bats in his previous stints, mostly as a starter, with the Pirates, so is this something that we can count on him taking over to the rotation tonight?
I’m not sure that it is, to be honest. It’s easy to see the two biggest things that have changed for Lincoln this year if you look at his pitches and his pitch selection. His fastball is averaging 93.1 mph this year, whereas in the past it’s been slightly under 92. He’s also basically eliminated the changeup from his repertoire, throwing either a fastball or a curveball 97% of the time. This is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a guy like Lincoln in moving from the rotation to the bullpen; you can always amp your velocity up some when you’re only expected to throw one or two innings instead of six and facing fewer hitters means you need fewer pitches to be effective. Lincoln’s two best pitches have always been his fastball and his curve, so it makes sense that he’d focus there out of the bullpen.
That being said, I wrote over the winter that I thought that Lincoln’s work in 2011 earned him a look in the rotation in 2012 and I still think that’s true. He got a lot of groundballs last year and he’s getting them again in the bullpen this year. He also threw a lot of strikes last year, which is something he previously struggled with in the big leagues, and he’s still throwing a lot of strikes this year.
It seems like Bedard’s injury isn’t too serious and that we can expect him back in the rotation this week, so Lincoln’s time in the rotation may not be terribly long. That being said, I think that Kevin Correia is basically a ticking timebomb on the mound at this point and the Pirates have plenty of right-handed arms in the bullpen. If Lincoln pitches well against the Marlins tonight, he’ll certainly be placing some pressure on Correia to pick his game up over his next few starts.