TEMPE, Ariz -– Tim Lincecum has been one of the best and most popular pitchers in San Francisco Giants history (try walking around the city without seeing someone wearing one of his replica jerseys). He won two Cy Young awards and helped the Giants finally win their long-coveted world championships. But his velocity has declined in recent years, while his ERA has risen significantly. He also lost his starting spot the past season.
Right now, Lincecum is expected to be back in the rotation this season, but the question is whether he can recover his form.
“I want to get back to my foundation," Lincecum said after allowing a run and two hits in four innings Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels. “And my foundation was my mechanics and the way I repeat them in such a dynamic way."
Coming off two disappointing seasons, Lincecum struggled at the start of the past season before a strong stretch from May through the first half of July, when he was 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA, a no-hitter and a save while holding batters to a .194 average. His game then fell off again, as he went 3-3 with an 8.49 ERA the rest of the way, lost his spot in the rotation and made just one postseason appearance.
“I had plenty of time to reflect since the end of last season," Lincecum said. “That’s kind of what pushed me to go after it so hard this offseason -- and in a smarter way."
Lincecum’s father, Chris, was instrumental in developing his son's unique pitching mechanics while he was growing up, but the two had fallen out a bit in recent years. They reconnected this winter, though, and held regular workouts to go over Lincecum’s mechanics once again.
Asked whether he reached out to his father or his father reached out to him, Lincecum said, “It was one of those things where it kind of went without saying. We didn’t talk about it. But I’m his son, so I have to go back to him."
Like many Giants starters, Lincecum struggled early in the spring and allowed six runs in just four innings in his first three appearances. He also had a minor setback when he developed a stiff neck that kept him out of games for 10 days before Saturday’s start against the Angels.
Lincecum’s pitches were up early in the game Saturday, and he allowed a run in the first inning and several hard hit balls in the second. He settled down after that and faced the minimum in the third and fourth innings before leaving the game.
“I wasn’t great in the beginning," he said. “I was going too fast with my mechanics and didn’t really get into my rhythm until the third inning. The third and fourth inning were better. I was more consistent and getting on top of pitches instead of underneath them."
Asked who has the fifth spot in the rotation, manager Bruce Bochy replied, “Right now, it would be Timmy. Hopefully, we’ll have them all ready, and we’ll see where we’re at. It doesn’t mean we don’t change if we don’t think someone is ready. We’ll look at the way Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit are throwing the ball. We’ll stay open-minded."
“Timmy looks at this as a new slate, and he’s got a new set of confidence -- and that’s where we’re at right now."