The Pittsburgh Pirates are hoping for a similar first step from their top pitching prospect.
Three years after Tommy John surgery slowed his progress through the minors, Brad Lincoln(notes) makes his major league debut Wednesday night hoping to help the Pirates bounce back from a series-opening loss to Strasburg and the Nationals.
Pittsburgh (23-35) thought Lincoln was on the fast track to the majors when it made him the No. 4 overall pick of the 2006 draft, but the University of Houston star was held back by injuries almost right away.
After an oblique strain limited him to 24 innings in 2006, surgery knocked Lincoln out for the 2007 season. He never looked fully recovered in 2008 and 2009, but has pitched well in Triple-A Indianapolis this season. Through 11 starts with the Indians, Lincoln was 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA, striking out 55 and walking 14 in 68 1-3 innings.
“I’ve been tasting it for the last month, month and a half,” Lincoln told the Pirates’ official website. “I have been getting ready and prepared for that next level, and right now I feel like I can go up there and compete with the best of them. I’ve always been that type of guy that wants to be in the big situation and go up against the best.”
Lincoln may not be the Pirates’ only prospect to earn a call-up Wednesday. Speedy outfielder Jose Tabata(notes), hitting .308 with 25 stolen bases in Triple-A, is expected to join Lincoln in Washington.
While Lincoln ranks as Pittsburgh’s best young arm in a system thin on high-level pitching, he isn’t considered anywhere near the sure thing that Strasburg - baseball’s consensus top prospect - was heading into his major league debut Tuesday.
The hard-throwing right-hander couldn’t have looked much better in his first outing, which came one day prior to the one-year anniversary of Washington (28-31) making him the 2009 draft’s No. 1 pick. Strasburg didn’t issue a walk and struck out 14 - including the final seven batters he faced - in a 5-2 victory.
Strasburg’s captivating debut earned him a postgame shaving cream pie in the face from John Lannan(notes) (2-3, 4.79 ERA), who will try to win Wednesday for the first time in nine home starts (0-3, 5.08) dating to Aug. 22.
The left-hander has made only one start at Nationals Park since April 21, and after turning in a pair of solid road efforts to close out May, Lannan’s first outing away from home in June didn’t go well. Only two of the five runs he allowed over 6 1-3 innings Wednesday at Houston were earned, but Lannan got little offensive or defensive support in a 5-1 loss.
“I thought John did a good job,” manager Jim Riggleman told the Nationals’ official website. “We didn’t help him much out there.”
Lannan is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh - both at home - but held the Pirates to one run over seven innings in Washington’s 2-1 loss on May 20, 2009.
Facing Lannan a night after dealing with Strasburg’s consistent mid-90s fastball could be tricky. Lannan has the majors’ third-fewest strikeouts (20) of any pitcher with at least 10 starts.