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Brad Lincoln

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Brad Eric Lincoln

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Brad Lincoln was the 4th overall pick of the 2006 amateur draft, becoming the highest selection ever out of Conference USA. Lincoln began his collegiate career in 2004, going 3-2 with a 4.29 ERA and hitting .333/.500/.381. In 2005, Brad slipped to 4-7, 4.76. He walked only 21 in 102 innings, but allowed 124 hits. At the plate, he hit .337/.414/.519.

Lincoln first drew attention in the Cape Cod League after the 2005 season, posting a 1.32 ERA. In his junior year, he was one of the top collegiate players in the country. That season, Brad went 12-2 with a 1.69 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings while walking only 32. At the plate, he hit .295/.368/.536 with 14 HR as a first baseman/DH. He won multiple awards and trophies for his dazzling season, most prominently the Dick Howser Trophy and the ABCA Player of the Year. While he had only had one great season, he was a highly-ranked prospect due to his dominant year.

The Pittsburgh Pirates took Lincoln with the 4th pick in the draft. He was signed by scout Everett Russell for $2.75 million and was assigned to the GCL Pirates, a surprisingly low start for a top-five pick chosen out of college. He struck out 9 and walked one in 7 2/3 innings in two starts for the Bradentown-based team, allowing one run (unearned) and was quickly promoted to the Hickory Crawdads. With Hickory, he also saw very limited action, going 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in four outings and allowing a .368 average before being sidelined for the rest of the year with a strained oblique.

On April 3, 2007, Lincoln underwent Tommy John surgery by James Andrews and would miss the season. This marked a major injury for the 6th of the 7 most recent pitchers taken in the first round by the Pirates. For the first time, GM Dave Littlefield said the team might consider it a reason not to draft pitchers in the first round.

Lincoln finally returned to the minors in 2008. He went 5-5 with a 4.65 ERA for Hickory and was moved up to the Lynchburg Hillcats in July, going 1-5 with a 4.75 ERA for the latter club. Brad showed some strides in 2009. He was very good for the Altoona Curve to open the year, with a 2.28 ERA in 13 starts but was just 1-5 due to almost no run support. Promoted to the Indianapolis Indians, the Texan right-hander posted a 6-2 record but his ERA rose to 4.70. Had he qualified, he would have placed second in the Eastern League in ERA. Getting to bat for the first time as a pro, he was 4 for 13 between AA and AAA. Baseball America rated him the #10 prospect in the EL, between Michael Taylor and Hector Rondon.

Brad pitched for the USA in the 2009 Futures Game but it was a forgettable performance. With a 5-5 tie in the 7th and final inning, he relieved Trevor Reckling with one on and two out to face Alex Liddi. Rene Tosoni pinch-hit and delivered the game-deciding double, then Dayan Viciedo provided insurance with another two-bagger. Carlos Santana walked before Kyeong Kang popped out.

Lincoln also represented the US in the 2009 Baseball World Cup, where he did better. A late addition to replace fellow Pirate farmhand Daniel McCutchen, Brad allowed one run in five innings in his first start, against the Venezuelan national team, before leaving for B.J. Rosenberg. The bullpen blew it with 12 runs the rest of the way as the US took its lone loss of the tourney. Versus Japan, he gave up one run in 7 1/3 innings and got a win. He allowed two runs in seven in the rematch with Venezuela and improved to 2-0. In the Gold Medal game against Cuba, he relieved Cory Luebke in the fifth with a 4-2 lead. He gave a 2-run homer to Ariel Borrero in the sixth and a solo shot to Alfredo Despaigne in the 8th. With a 10-5 lead entering the bottom of the 9th, he allowed Cuba to load the bases with two outs. Nate Field relieved and got the final out to lock up the US's Gold Medal as Lincoln improved to 3-0.

Lincoln began 2010 back with Indianapolis and did well on the mound (6-2, 3.16, a WHIP just under one) and at the plate (3 for 9, 2 2B, BB, 3 R). He was called up to the majors to replace Dana Eveland in the Pirates' rotation; at the same time, fellow prospect José Tabata was called up to play left. Brad's debut came one day after über-prospect Stephen Strasburg faced Pittsburgh; some people were calling for a matchup of Pittsburgh's top pitching prospect versus Washington's top pitching prospect. Unlike Strasburg, Lincoln had an unimpressive debut, surrendering five runs in six innings to the Nats in a no-decision; he did hit well, going 2 for 3 with a RBI. His home debut was no better with another five runs in six. He was 0-1 with a 6.50 ERA after three starts but was three for six at the plate. He ended that first season at 1-4, 6.66 in 11 games, but did hit .400. In 2011, he improved to 2-3, 4.72 in 12 games, including 8 starts, for the Pirates, after compiling a record of 7-8, 4.19, in 19 starts in Indianapolis.

In 2012, Brad made a couple of strong starts at Indianapolis to start the season, then was called up to Pittsburgh to work out of the bullpen. He did extremely well in that role and was sporting a 1.04 ERA after an appearance on June 1st. Still being perceived by the organization as a top starting prospect, he was then given a string of starts in June, but struggled, losing his first two and only reaching the 6th inning once. He was then returned to the bullpen, where he resumed pitching lights out. On July 30th, his record stood at 4-2, 2.73 with one save in 28 games (2-2, 6.08 in 5 games as a starter; 2-0, 0.50 in 23 games as a reliever) when the Pirates sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays in return for another former top draft pick who had shown tantalizing glimpses of talent over the previous few seasons, without being able to put the whole package together in the big leagues in OF Travis Snider. It was very much a baseball trade, with both clubs still in contention for a playoff spot, but the Jays needing pitching to complement their excellent offense, while the Pirates were struggling to score enough runs to support of their outstanding pitching staff. For his Pirates career, Brad had a 5-9, 5.65 record as a starter and 2-0, 1.87 as a reliever. He went 1-0, 5.65 in 24 games for the Jays in 2012, then pitched only 22 times for the team in 2013. He went 1-2, 3.98 during those games, giving up 22 walks in 31 233 innings; he also pitched 23 times for the Buffalo Bisons, compiling a mark of 3-2, 2.05 and 5 saves. With the Jays having a surfeit of experienced relievers, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on December 3rd, in return for C Erik Kratz and P Rob Rasmussen.

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