Lincoln, McCutchen optioned to Indy


BRADENTON, Fla. — Well, so much for my theory about Brad Lincoln making the club. This morning, Lincoln and fellow right-hander Daniel McCutchen were optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. That leaves Jared Hughes, Chris Leroux and Daniel Moskos vying for one (or perhaps two) bullpen job(s).

“Unfortunately, both of them haven’t thrown the way we know they’re capable of,” GM Neal Huntington said. “These final decisions are continuing to be very tough. I certainly expect that both these guys are going to be in a position to help us at some point this season. As we break camp, we’re looking to take the strongest seven.”

Huntington added that his reference to seven relievers was force of habit. Management still has not decided (or, at least, hasn’t announced) whether the club will go north with an extra bench player or an extra reliever. “We’ve still got that final decision to make,” Huntington s said. “Although, those three hitters have put themselves in a position to make the club. It’s a different type of decision — you’re choosing from among guys who are playing very well, instead of from among guys who haven’t had the best of springs.”

Those three hitters would be Matt Hague, Josh Harrison and Yamaico Navarro. Hague has 14 hits (including five homers) in his past 36 at-bats. Navarro has 10 hits in his past 23 at-bats. Harrison is 3 for his past 17, but still is hitting .357 with a team-high seven doubles.

I asked Huntington if he’s confident his starters will go deep enough into games to allow the club to carry an extra bench player. “The schedule certainly works in our favor, with the off days (Friday and April 9), so we’re going to have a very well-rested bullpen that weekend, even if a starter has to (leave a game) early,” Huntington said. “The next sequence is when we have to take things into consideration, because we play (nine) games in a row. With that nine-game West Coast swing, how does the bullpen play? That’s all still part of the equation. There’s a lot of moving pieces and parts to putting this final 25-man roster together.”

»»» A.J. Burnett will pitch in a minor league game today at Pirate City. “Hopefully, I can get in 50 to 60 pitches,” Burnett said. “We’ll see how it goes.” Burnett appears to be well ahead of the conservative schedule set after his surgery and there’s talk he could be back by the end of April instead of early June. “Mid-April would be fine by me,” Burnett said.

»»» Minor leaguers who are making the trip to Philly for the two exhibition games: Tim Alderson, Ryan Beckman, Kyle Cofield, Kris Johnson, Matt McSwain, Tim Wood, Ramon Cabrera, Eric Fryer, Tony Sanchez, Jerek Cunningham, Matt Curry, Jeremy Farrell, Brock Holt, Robbie Grossman and Andrew Lambo.

»»» Rod Barajas was scratched from the lineup today. There’s no injury; he’s just getting some down time after playing on three of the past four days.

Spring game No. 29: Pirates v. Blue Jays, 1:05 p.m., Dunedin, Fla.

Pirates (8-18-2): 1. Alex Presley lf, 2. Jose Tabata rf, 3. Andrew McCutchen cf, 4. Neil Walker 2b, 5. Garrett Jones 1b, 6. Pedro Alvarez 3b, 7. Clint Barmes ss, 8. Michael McKenry c, 9. Jeff Karstens rhp

Blue Jays (23-5-1): 1. Yunel Escobar ss, 2. Kelly Johnson 2b, 3. Jose Bautista rf, 4. Edwin Encarnacion hd, 5. Adam Lind 1b, 6. Brett Lawrie 3b, 7. Eric Thames lf, 8. JP Arencibia c, 9. Colby Rasmus cf. Brandon Morrow rhp