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Lincoln seems ready for bigger role

The Sports Xchange
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It's taken five years, one elbow surgery and a maddening array of setbacks, but Brad Lincoln finally is making an impact with the Pirates.

Lincoln, the franchise's first-round pick in 2006, has done well enough in the bullpen since his recent recall -- 0.87 ERA in five appearances with 11 strikeouts over 10 1/3 innings -- that manager Clint Hurdle made clear he won't be shy about using Lincoln in more than mop-up duty.

"Lincoln's stuff is playing up real big," Hurdle said before the 12-3 loss Wednesday night in St. Louis. "I'm not so sure Lincoln's a guy we want to keep in long relief for a long time. We might be able to use him in leverage situations."

Lincoln has backed that up. He was summoned into a game Sunday in Atlanta with the bases loaded and one out and left the runners right where they were. One of those outs came on a Chipper Jones strikeout.

"I know Chipper didn't have an enjoyable at-bat off him the other day," Hurdle said. "He's bringing it. He's very comfortable on the mound and very confident."

Lincoln then retired all three Cardinals he faced Tuesday, then pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday. That left opponents 5-for-35 against him.

Lincoln, who will turn 27 this month, overcame Tommy John surgery in 2007. Even once his strength returned, his command and stuff took a while. He's still seen within the organization as a starting candidate but, as Lincoln made clear upon his return two weeks ago, "I'll do whatever it takes to stay here."

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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