Lincoln part of latest Pirates cuts
Former first-rounder to get more seasoning at Triple-A
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pirates' top pitching prospect, Brad Lincoln, was among seven players sent out from Major League camp on Monday. Coupled with the six cuts that the club made after Sunday's win over the Yankees, Pittsburgh has reduced its number of active camp participants from 60 to 47 in less than 24 hours.
There were no surprises among this latest group of cuts. Along with Lincoln, catcher Tony Sanchez and pitchers Donnie Veal, Bryan Morris, Jeff Sues, Justin Thomas and Virgil Vasquez all left McKechnie Field and will now spend the rest of the spring participating in Minor League camp at Pirate City.
The Bucs tabbed Lincoln as competing for the fifth rotation spot coming into Spring Training. However, management's preference was always to have the right-hander spend some time developing in Triple-A before making his Major League debut. Lincoln certainly remains a candidate to be called up sometime during the season.
"He made a good impression," general manager Neal Huntington said. "[He is] a guy that's really going to be a phone call away. If he goes out and does what he's capable of, he's a guy that's definitely a depth starter for us and can work his way into more than that."
Lincoln, the No. 4 pick in the 2006 First Year-Player Draft, pitched three innings in Grapefruit League play this spring. He allowed one run on four hits and three walks. Lincoln struck out two. The right-hander is coming off a season in which he combined to go 7-7 with a 3.37 ERA in 25 starts split between Double-A and Triple-A.
He will start the season at the top of Indianapolis' rotation, and he will make developing his changeup the primary focus.
"It's still a work in progress," Huntington said of the pitch. "The biggest challenge he's got in being able to come back out here and get Major League hitters out is the ability to use the changeup, not only against left-handed hitters, but right-handed hitters. [He needs] to trust it, and get enough separation between his fastball and changeup to make it have effect."
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Veal will join Lincoln in Indianapolis' rotation. Though Veal spent the 2009 season in the Pirates' bullpen, the organization wants to continue the left-hander's development as a starter.
Sanchez and Morris will begin the season with high-Class A Bradenton, where Morris will be in the Marauders' rotation and Sanchez will serve as the club's starting catcher.
In his first experience at big league camp, Sanchez went 1-for-3. That one hit was a home run in his first at-bat of the spring. A first-round pick last season, Sanchez is likely to be in Double-A before the season ends.
"Love the catch-throw," Huntington said of Sanchez. "He showed quality life off the bat. Love the way he carries himself, the way he goes about his work, the energy that he brings. We're excited to get his second year started."
"I'm just trying to take it all in," Sanchez said this spring. "I'm in no rush to get anywhere, and I'm just enjoying the process. These guys have been around baseball for so much longer than I have, and they have so much to teach me."
This season will be a crucial one for Morris, who is coming off a year in which he posted a 5.57 ERA and was at one point suspended by the organization for unprofessional conduct. This all came after Morris was hyped as the cornerstone in the 2008 Jason Bay trade.
"Hopefully I can keep working and keep giving myself a chance to be successful," Morris said. "This year is a very important year, especially coming off last year. [My] confidence level is sky high because I feel like I can make the pitches I couldn't make last year. It's going to be fun. It's going to be exciting. I'm ready to go."
Morris pitched one scoreless inning in Grapefruit League play.
Vasquez, Sues and Thomas will now compete the rest of the month to make Indianapolis' club, Huntington said. Coming into camp, none of the three was expected to make a serious push for winning an Opening Day roster spot in Pittsburgh.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.