Lincoln looking for return to form
Reliever's early struggles haven't shaken his confidence
CINCINNATI -- Reds reliever Mike Lincoln entered Saturday's game against the Pirates with a chance to find himself. The Reds were losing by four runs at the time, but if Lincoln, saddled with a 27.00 ERA before he stepped on the mound, could hold the Pirates scoreless, Cincinnati might have a shot at some last-minute heroics.
"It was a timely situation for him to get his stuff back together," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "It was a game where you're not out of the game, but you're not really in the game, either."
Lincoln quickly took his team out of it for good.
With the Pirates leading, 5-1, Lincoln entered in the top of the ninth. He walked the first two batters he faced and allowed a single to Nyjer Morgan. Then, with two outs, Lincoln walked Nate McLouth to load the bases, and Ryan Doumit blasted a grand slam to right field to make it 9-1. The next batter, Adam LaRoche, followed that with a solo shot to right-center.
By the time the inning was over, Lincoln was staring at an unsightly 34.71 ERA.
"[There's] nothing I can do at this point," Lincoln said. "I just have to keep throwing the ball and keep making quality pitches. I don't know, I've just been missing the zone a little bit and making some bad pitches, and it cost me. It definitely [stinks]. The worst part about it is, both the games I got beat around in, I basically took the team out of the game. Other than that, I feel fine. I'm just trying to get everything turned around."
Lincoln, who was out of baseball with a right elbow injury from 2005-07, has some leeway with the Reds. Although his stat line from last season isn't terribly impressive -- he went 2-5 with a 4.48 ERA in 64 games -- he was effective for much of the year.
From June to August, he went 19 straight appearances without allowing a single run, and despite Lincoln's early-season struggles, it's not like Baker needs a reminder of his skill level.
"There's history, and then there's the recent," Baker said. "The only way to return to history is to pitch recent."
For his part, Lincoln isn't panicking. He knows the season is still young.
"There's not any really good time to pitch poorly like that, but I guess earlier is better," Lincoln said. "It kind of comes with the job. Leave it at the field, and come back the next day and do your job."
Baker remains confident in his reliever. There's still plenty of time for Lincoln to regroup and return to last year's form.
"It's surprising, because he was so good for us last year," Baker said. "You want everybody to start well, but it rarely happens. We have to get Linc's stuff back together."
Josh Katzowitz is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.