Brad Lincoln, the Pirates' top pitching prospect at Class AAA Indianapolis, is "definitely a candidate" to make his major-league debut Wednesday in Washington, according to general manager Neal Huntington (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ battery).

The Nationals' Stephen Strasburg makes his widely anticipated debut one day earlier, and a Lincoln-Strasburg matchup might have generated intense interest in Pittsburgh. But Huntington reiterated team president Frank Coonelly's position that management's preference was to have veteran Jeff Karstens make that start, mostly because Karstens will have been idle a week  (Sony VGP-BPS8 battery).

"At this time of the season, an extra day's rest is a good thing," Huntington said. "We feel Brad needs continued development but that competing at the major-league level is an important next step in his progress. That next step could come as soon as Wednesday."(Sony VGP-BPL9 battery)

Lincoln, a 25-year-old right-hander who was the Pirates' first-round draft pick in 2006, is 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA, 55 strikeouts, 14 walks, and a .216 opponents' average in 11 starts.

"It would be awesome," Lincoln said upon hearing Sunday, through a third party, what Huntington said. "I've worked really hard to get to this point, and I'd be thrilled if they brought me up. I'll be ready."

And how would he have felt about facing Strasburg under the national spotlight?(Sony VGP-BPL11 battery)

"I'd have enjoyed that, of course. I'm that kind of competitor. But, at the same time, I just want to get to the majors. That's my goal."

Huntington added that the rest of the rotation would start anew following the game Lincoln is likely to pitch: That means Zach Duke will take the finale Thursday in Washington, and Paul Maholm will open the series Friday in Detroit  (Sony VGP-BPL15 battery).

Morton returns Tuesday

Charlie Morton, on the disabled list with what the team has called a sore shoulder, will make his first rehabilitation start for Class AAA Indianapolis Tuesday  (ASUS A3000 Battery).

Part of Morton's eight days in Bradenton, Fla., was spent with a sports psychologist, according to a source. That is standard fare for the Pirates when any player is struggling significantly  (ASUS Eee PC 1000HE Battery).

Buried treasure

• Reliever Steven Jackson, returned to Indianapolis last week, was placed on the minor-league disabled list after being hit on the forearm by a line drive Saturday night. Nothing is broken, but the arm was "hit hard," according to player development director Kyle Stark (Dell Inspiron 6400 battery).

• Dana Eveland's debut today will come without a strict pitch limit, manager John Russell said, but the team probably will be delighted to get four or five good innings, as he has not pitched since May 22 with Toronto (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ4000 Battery).

• Left fielder Lastings Milledge's hair-raising catch to end the game Saturday night was ESPN's No. 1 play on "SportsCenter."(Toshiba PA3399U-2BAS Battery)

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