McClendon looks in-house for pitching depth | TribLIVE.com
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Joe Rutter

Manager Lloyd McClendon knows the Pirates need to have more starting pitching depth next spring, and one of the places he might acquire it is right under his nose.

McClendon is thinking about raiding the bullpen for one or two starting candidates next season. Specifically, he might look at right-hander Mike Lincoln and left-hander Scott Sauerbeck in that role.

‘Suffice it to say, we won’t leave any stone unturned,’ McClendon said Friday afternoon.

McClendon learned this season that a team can’t have enough starting pitching, what with the injuries he witnessed from Jason Schmidt, Kris Benson, Francisco Cordova, Ryan Vogelsong and Terry Mulholland, to name a few. It was because of a season-ending injury to Vogelsong that right-hander Bronson Arroyo returned to the rotation last night against the St. Louis Cardinals.

‘We need to get to the point where we’re backed up with our starters,’ McClendon said. ‘We can’t go into the season being five or six deep, we need to go 10 or 11 deep.’

Which means McClendon might ask several relievers to change their roles.

‘I’m not ready to reveal names,’ he said. ‘But we have some guys who are suited to do better things.’

Lincoln, a 26-year-old right-hander, has starting experience, although not with much success. With the Minnesota Twins in the 1999-2000 seasons, he was 3-13 with a 7.20 ERA in 19 starts and seven relief appearances.

This year, with the Pirates, Lincoln appears to have found his niche in the bullpen. He is 1-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 26 appearances.

‘There’s a chance he may change roles,’ McClendon said. ‘He has the capabilities of being a starter. I didn’t know him when he struggled with the Twins. Maybe it was youth. But he’s definitely a possibility. He has three quality pitches and gets left-handed hitters out as well as right-handers.’

Sauerbeck has pitched in relief exclusive in his three seasons with the Pirates, averaging 70 appearances in his first two seasons and making 62 appearances so far this year.

‘That’s a legitimate question (whether he could switch roles),’ McClendon said. ‘I’m not prepared to answer it now. But he did start his whole career in the minors, so he could be a possibility.’

McClendon also learned not to take his pitcher’s health for granted this season. That’s why he’s not counting on having Benson in his rotation by May 1, when doctors think Benson will be ready to pitch again.

‘When I get someone, I’ll have him. When I don’t, I won’t even think about him,’ McClendon said. ‘I’ve learned that you can never have enough pitching.’

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