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Lincoln gets first Reds’ start

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Reds right-hander Mike Lincoln will get the start in the team’s exhibition opener Friday against Cleveland, manager Dusty Baker said Sunday.

Lincoln hasn’t started a game since 2001, when he was in Class AAA in the Pittsburgh system, but the team approached him this offseason about moving back into a starter’s role.

Lincoln is part of a large group of pitchers trying to make the Reds rotation as the fifth starter. The first four spots are locked up by Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey, but the fifth spot is still up in the air.

Baker said he was hoping to get most of the pitchers in competition for the fifth spot to throw in exhibition games early in the spring and try to decide that spot sooner rather than later.

Along with Lincoln, veterans Justin Lehr and Kip Wells are in the battle, as well as younger pitchers like Aroldis Chapman, Matt Maloney, Mike Leake and Travis Wood.

“We’re going to start Lincoln first, we want to see how he handles having time to prepare and warm up as a starter,” Baker said.

“He knows how to warm up as a reliever. We’ll see how guys handle the get-up quick better than they handle having a day or two to think about it, it’s all part of the adjustment period.”

Lincoln has appeared in 83 games in the last two seasons for the Reds, all out of the bullpen. He missed most of last season with a bulging disc in his neck. He was out of baseball from 2005-07 after undergoing surgeries on his right elbow.

Lincoln, 34, has 19 career major league starts, 15 in 1999 with Minnesota and four with the Twins in 2000, but made the move to the bullpen in 2001.