Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lincoln, Walker and Gerut, Oh My

Three things happened to three Pirate players over the last 48 hours, and none of the occurrences should come as much of a surprise.

First, the Pirates top pitching prospect and first round pick from a year ago, Brad Lincoln, has been shut down due to arm problems. Management says it is an elbow problem and it is unknown when he will be able to return to the mound. This isn't a surprise because not only was Lincoln hurt last year, but the Pirates have had a terrible run of injuries involving their top pitching prospects over the last few years.

In the past decade, five of the six pitchers they drafted in the first round before Lincoln -- Clint Johnston, Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington -- have needed major arm surgeries. The only exception is Paul Maholm.

Secondly, Neil Walker, the Pirates top pick in 2004, has been permanently and exclusively moved from behind the plate to third base. Walker, who did play some third base in high school, is seen as a potential power bat for the Pirates but management worried about Walker being blocked behind the plate by current starter Ronny Paulino.

Walker will likely start the season at Altoona but a late season call-up isn't out of the question and penciling Walker in as the starting third basemen on Opening Day in 2008 is possible.

Finally, outfielder Jody Gerut isn't ready to go and compete for that fifth outfielder spot just yet. He didn't take the field during the Pirates first workout without a trainer and he left soon after he appeared. Gerut is still recovering from knee surgery that he had eight months ago and is due $850,000 if he makes the team.

In other team news, Romulo Sanchez, one of three pitchers who had been delayed from reporting to the Pirates' spring training, arrived and participated in all drills today. But the other two, Tony Armas Jr. and Serguey Linares, continue to await U.S. work visas in other countries.

Bryan Bullington threw his first bullpen session today for the first time since October and his most intense workout since having shoulder surgery in late 2005. JV Benschoten threw his first bullpen yesterday, finishing without any complaints or hold backs.

Ian Snell has a personal goal of 15 wins this season. Snell went 14-11 last year.
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