Elbow ailment keeps Lincoln out of Pirates workout

Updated: February 18, 2007, 8:56 AM ET
Associated Press

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Pittsburgh Pirates kept Brad Lincoln, their top pitching prospect, from participating in the first workout of spring training because of elbow irritation on Friday.

No timetable was given for Lincoln's return, but general manager Dave Littlefield said the pitcher will begin a throwing program soon.

"He'll be no-throw for a little while until that calms down," Littlefield said, referring to the elbow irritation.

Lincoln, a 21-year-old right-handed starter who was the team's first-round draft pick last summer, had his first professional season cut short by a strained left oblique in August. He was 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA in four starts for the Pirates' Class-A affiliate in Hickory, N.C.

He first felt the elbow pain while throwing in the weeks leading up to spring training, Littlefield said.

If serious, Lincoln's injury would extend a miserable run for Pittsburgh's pitching prospects. The Pirates' first-round picks from 2000-02 -- Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten and Bryan Bullington -- have missed most or all of the past two seasons because of major arm surgeries.

Also Friday, Littlefield announced that Neil Walker, the Pirates' first-round draft pick three years ago, will convert from catcher to third base. Walker took infield grounders during the workout and did not participate in any catching activities.

"He'll no longer be catching," Littlefield said. "We made the decision based on his athleticism and the fact that, as we look at our organization, Neil has a lot of potential with the bat, and we think this is a quicker way for him to get to Pittsburgh."

Walker, a 21-year-old switch-hitter, batted .271 with five home runs, 22 doubles and 38 RBIs in 82 games last season for the Pirates' Class-A affiliate in Lynchburg, Va., and their Double-A affiliate in Altoona, Pa.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press