DETROIT -- The anticipation for Brad Lincoln's PNC Park debut began the day the Pirates took the then-21-year-old right-hander out of the University of Houston with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Despite a surgical setback for Lincoln in 2007, that anticipation only continued to augment as Lincoln made the climb up the Minor League rungs.
Now, as the Pirates open up a six-game homestand on Tuesday, Pittsburghers can get their first in-person look at a pitcher who is expected to be a mainstay in the Pirates' rotation for years.
Lincoln made his Major League debut on the road last Wednesday, allowing five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in six innings against the Nationals. Sunday, two days before his much-anticipated home debut, Lincoln invited lofty expectations from fans.
"I hope that I can impress," said Lincoln, who hasn't been to Pittsburgh since signing in 2006. "Hopefully, they expect a lot. They should expect me to go out there and perform to the max and give them a show. For me, I'm going to treat it just like any other game and go out there, do what I do and hope to come out with a win. It will be exciting. It will probably be just like my first start."
Though Lincoln didn't dominate like rookie Stephen Strasburg had in his big league debut the night before, Lincoln's first test against a Major League club was widely seen as a success. The righty showed confidence in using his changeup in any situation, and he was able to complement his fastball by throwing breaking pitches for strikes.
Had the defense made a few more plays behind Lincoln, the Nationals likely wouldn't have scored all five of those runs, either. What lessons did Lincoln come away with?
"Hitters are a lot more disciplined up here," he answered. "They have an approach and it showed me that I've got to learn to pick my spots on when to throw different pitches and not give in."
Jones often rounds bases alone
DETROIT -- Despite having such surprising success once given the chance to play every day, Garrett Jones knew that there was still one knock against him by the time the 2009 season came to an end. That was, of course, the fact that with runners on base, Jones hardly ever produced.
Those numbers have gotten better this season, as there is no longer such a visible discrepancy between Jones' results with runners on base or not. Jones entered Sunday having hit .260 with the bases empty, .283 with at least one runner on, and .262 with runners in scoring position.
Last season, the contrast was much more stark. Jones finished '09 hitting .152 with runners in scoring position compared to .303 with the bases empty.
However, even though Jones' overall numbers have leveled out, the first baseman/right fielder does still have a knack for hitting most of his home runs with no one on. Jones' solo shot Sunday was his 10th long ball of the season. Six of those have come with no runners aboard.
Jones has now hit 31 homers since making his Pirates debut on July 1, 2009, and 21 have been of the solo variety. Only two other players -- Milwaukee's Prince Fielder (24) and Florida's Dan Uggla (22) -- have hit more solo shots since Jones' 2009 debut.
Home runs hurting Donnelly
DETROIT -- Expected to be a formidable presence at the back end of the Pirates' bullpen, right-hander Brendan Donnelly has been stung by two particular problems lately: He's allowing too many balls to leave the park and he's falling behind in the count with regularity.
Donnelly served up Carlos Guillen's game-winning homer on Saturday just three pitches into his appearance. It was the second home run that Donnelly had allowed in three days (two appearances), and his fifth surrendered in 18 2/3 innings this season.
That rate certainly doesn't mesh with Donnelly's career numbers. The 38-year-old reliever has allowed more than five total home runs only twice in his previous eight seasons. And in both of those instances (nine homers allowed in 2005; eight in 2006), Donnelly had eclipsed the 60-inning mark.
So what has the particular issue been lately?
"I wish I could tell you that," said Donnelly, who has now been scored upon in five of his last seven appearances. "I don't know. Mechanically, we're working on something, but it's not that big of a deal. I'm not making the pitch. I'm not getting the strikeout when I need to. I'm not getting some luck when I need to. It's just a rough stretch. I've been there before, it's just a little more amplified here."
It hasn't helped either that Donnelly has had trouble getting ahead of hitters recently. He fell behind Guillen, 2-0, before Saturday's blast, and in his last seven appearances, Donnelly has thrown a first-pitch ball exactly as many times (16) as he's gotten ahead in the count, 0-1.
"That's one of the things that's been hurting him a little bit," manager John Russell said. "It's tough when you get behind, especially the innings he's going to pitch in."
Latimore shines as Minors All-Star
DETROIT -- Outfield prospect Quincy Latimore had a memorable night participating in Saturday's Florida State League All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. After finishing second in the Derby, the fourth-round pick from the 2007 First-Year Player Draft went 2-for-5 hitting leadoff for the FSL South All-Stars.
Latimore scored two runs, including the game-winner, to give the South a 5-4, 10-inning win. Latimore opened that final frame with a single, promptly stole second and then scored on a single.
Latimore was one of eight high Class A Bradenton Marauders selected as all-stars, though only three ended up appearing in the game. Lefty Jeff Locke struck out one in a perfect inning of relief. Right-hander Noah Krol also pitched a scoreless inning, allowing just one walk.
DETROIT -- Ryan Doumit returned to his familiar position behind the plate on Sunday, marking the first time in a week that he had caught. Doumit was hit in the head by a foul tip last Sunday, and the Pirates wanted to give him ample time to recover from concussion-like symptoms before putting him back at the catching position. ... Right-hander Charlie Morton will make his second Minor League rehab start later on Sunday when Triple-A Indianapolis faces Scranton Wilkes-Barre in a night game. ... General manager Neal Huntington, speaking on his weekly radio show, said he expects negotiations with first-round Draft pick Jameson Taillon to go up until the midnight Aug. 16 deadline. "The reality is that the agents are holding the guys down, thinking the longer they hold them down, the more money they'll get," Huntington said. "[Neither Taillon or No. 3 overall pick Manny Machado] is likely to play this summer, which is unfortunate. We think it's very important to get the player out playing. That said, it takes two to come to an agreement." ... With Jose Tabata now the team's everyday left fielder, Lastings Milledge is prepared to play right at PNC Park for the first time when the club returns home on Tuesday. Milledge's only appearance as a right fielder since 2007 came Wednesday in Washington D.C. "It's different with the wall, the look," manager John Russell said. "Right field, for me, was easier. But Lastings is obviously much more used to left field. It shouldn't take him too much time to figure it out."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.