SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Tim Lincecum has learned to adjust his expectations since the dawn of the "Freak" era.
When Lincecum arrived in San Francisco in 2007, his unorthodox motion and big velocity were enough to make even his bullpen sessions buzzworthy. Seven years, two Cy Young Awards and a few career setbacks later, he's channeling his energies into keeping the ball down in the zone, being pitch-efficient and inducing what he likes to call "crappy contact."
There's something to be said for an athlete knowing his limitations. Lincecum generally pitched in the 89-91 mph range during a Cactus League start against Kansas City on Friday, but he snapped off some excellent sliders and curves in the light desert air, and threw 26 strikes and only nine balls on his way to three shutout innings against the Royals.
Although Lincecum expects the velocity to rise a tick once he lays his spring training foundation and gains arm strength, he's sounding a lot like a member of the command-and-control fraternity of pitchers.
"I believe I can throw strikes in any count," Lincecum said, "so I'm not really worried about getting into hitters' counts. I feel like I can always come back and make a good pitch. I think that's the difference between today and some of my outings the last few years."
The Giants re-signed Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million deal in October, and they have to like what they're seeing from him and the rest of their rotation this spring. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Hudson -- the newest member of the band -- have combined to allow one earned run in 23 innings in Arizona. They have 12 strikeouts and only three walks as a group.
Lincecum, who turns 30 in June, rented a warehouse in Seattle over the winter, laid down a pitcher's mound and spent a lot more time throwing than in past offseasons. He thinks there will be times this year when all those solitary hours of preparation get him out of some jams and take him back where he needs to be.
"I have a foundation under me because I did all the work and put in the time that I needed to this offseason," Lincecum said. "That leaves me in a better mental state when I go out there, not wondering if it's a mechanical issue. And if it is a mechanical issue, I can fix it quickly, because I did the work."