July 25, 2010

Lincoln Optioned; Donnelly DFAd

After today's game the Pirates announced changes to their pitching staff as starter Brad Lincoln was optioned to AAA Indianapolis while reliever Brendan Donnelly was designated for assignment. No corresponding moves were announced.

First Round Pick Struggled In Majors
Lincoln, 25, started the year 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA at Indianapolis and was one of the year's most anticipated callups. But he could not command his fastball within the strike zone at the major league level and left too many pitches out over the plate. Today's six run outing raised his ERA to 6.57 to go with a 1-4 record.

The former first round draft pick was a strikeout guy coming up through the minors but couldn't miss bats this year in the majors even in the games where he pitched well, striking out just 21 in nine starts.

He'll slide into the Indianapolis starting rotation and try to get things together starting Friday at Syracuse. There's enough of the AAA schedule left for Lincoln to get in seven more starts, hopefully resuming his development. A good showing will likely bring him back to Pittsburgh in September.

Veteran Reliever Couldn't Find The Plate
38-year-old Brendan Donnelly was signed to be the club's primary setup man after putting up great numbers last year with the Marlins including a 1.74 ERA. Needless to say that plan didn't work out.

Age catches up with every player at some point and it's just looking like Donnelly has reached the end of the line. He never had pinpoint control but things got ridiculous as he walked 25 men in 31 innings this year, going 3-1 with a 5.58 ERA.

The Pirates can trade or release Donnelly; if no one claims him he can be sent to Indianapolis. I think some MLB team will pick him up for the stretch run at the minimum salary. Brendan's value in terms of a trade was likely finished with his three walk outing Friday when he failed to retire a batter.

If this is the end of the line for Donnelly, he can call it a successful career. Pictured here in better days, he improbably debuted in the majors at the age of 29 and got into 386 big league games with a 32-10 record and a 3.22 ERA. He earned nearly $6 million in his career and more importantly, won a World Series ring with the Angels in 2002 when he appeared in five games and allowed no runs on one hit.

Who's Next?
A quick look at the Indianapolis staff reveals no intriguiing starting candidates. Daniel McCutchen (4-7, 4.06) was rather terrible in the majors. Hayden Penn (4-4, 4.68) was sold to Japan. I think we'll see the return of the lesser McCutchen. That being said, I would strongly prefer to either bring in a starter from outside the organization or stretch out D.J. Carrasco. Carrasco was a starter in 2005 and put up a respectable 4.79 ERA in Kansas City which is likely better than what any of our AAA guys can do.

For the relief role, Wil Ledezma has put up an 0.94 ERA in 35 AAA games with 50 strikeouts in 38 innings. Ledezma has only a 5.06 career ERA in the major leagues but this is looking like a career year for the journeyman lefty - one that shouldn't be entirely wasted. The Pirates probably would like to add another lefty in the bullpen, especially if Javier Lopez is traded. Another option is the righthander Steven Jackson who is 3-0 with a 3.92 ERA at Indianapolis.

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