"I'm thankful to have an opportunity to be back out here," Lincoln said. "Just the feeling of running out on the field, I can feel it every day. I could feel it when I was driving to the park. I never really took it for granted, but it's just always there. You don't expect to get hurt or for the game to be taken away from you like that. Now I feel like I have a second chance and I want to make the best of it."Lincoln, who is 13-24 with a 5.16 ERA in 161 career games, has reported no pain or setbacks since the second Tommy John surgery, which was performed at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota by Dr. Bernard Morrey. Since he was no longer part of the Cardinals organization, Lincoln had to pay for the operation and rehab out of his own pocket. "I was clear with him," Lincoln said. "I said, 'If you could give me a chance, I'll do everything I can to get back.' They were worried about wasting my time by doing the surgery after it didn't work. If it failed again, it's a year out of your life, basically." A throwing program began nine months following Lincoln's second surgery. First, he worked out at home in the Sacramento area but later worked out at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville around the likes of Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan and Royals top pitching prospect Luke Hochevar. Once he felt 100 percent again, Lincoln instructed agent Steve Hilliard to start calling clubs to put his name in circulation. The pitcher said he worked out for 12 different clubs during the past winter. The Reds signed Lincoln to a Minor League contract on Feb. 5 after watching him throw a few weeks earlier from an indoor mound beneath Great American Ball Park. "He threw really well," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "I saw a guy that was fired up about getting back into the game. He took some time off to strengthen his body and let his arm rehab than he might not otherwise." In his one Spring Training game thus far, Lincoln has worked one scoreless inning with one strikeout. Manager Dusty Baker and the club have liked what they've seen in camp to this point. "I actually talked to [special advisor to the president] Walt Jocketty about him," Baker said. "He had him in St. Louis. He said he's actually throwing better than he was. I've heard that many times. Lincoln looks like he has more life than I remember him having." If that continues to be the case, Lincoln could potentially move from Tommy John surgery cautionary tale to the latest success story.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.