Don’t count out Tim Lincecum return just yet

Tim Lincecum San Francisco Giants Parade 2012

I haven’t written much about Tim Lincecum’s absence, which at times has seemed strange even to me. When I started this site back in 2008, Lincecum was the only positive thing going on. Although that’s partly due to my own shortcomings as a sportswriter, since the Sharks were the only playoff team in the region, but one could fit my hockey knowledge inside a puck. That is still the case, by the way.

Lincecum starts were events, not unlike Pedro Martinez outings in Boston. “Happy Tim Lincecum Day” was actually something people said/tweeted in all seriousness. The Giants used to run an amazing promotion in which they’d match a discount on bleacher seats to the number of Lincecum strikeouts in his previous start. If he struck out 12, bleacher seats were $12 cheaper. We’ll never see anything like that again, now that they’re champions three times over, and we’ll probably never see another pitcher with the kind of electricity that matched Lincecum’s.

His regression was clear, and painful. It seemed like he needed a fresh start with a new team, and it’s seemed that way for a while. The Giants put together a rotation without him.

Maybe Lincecum will still end up in another uniform, but I couldn’t let go. Giants fans never got to say goodbye to Lincecum. They said goodbye to Zito, for Chrissake. Twice! Lincecum is still a beloved figure in the city, the region, and the Giants clubhouse.

But most of all, this possibility gnawed at my subconscious …

Alright, “issue” could mean damn near anything*. Maybe it’s a family matter, or he tweaked a muscle in one of his legs. Maybe he’s at a photo shoot, donning a swimsuit for Sports Illustrated’s annual … issue (sorry). However, unless his five shutout innings against the Rockies on Oct. 4 were enough to wipe out an awful season that started with him landing on the disabled list on Opening Day, one had to assume that a lengthy setback was more likely to occur with Cain than any other pitcher on the roster.

* Update: Cain has a cyst on his upper right arm and is expected to throw again in 10 days.

Lincecum recently visited the clubhouse in Scottsdale to visit with some of his former teammates. He’s also expected to throw a “showcase” session for major league scouts in the next week or so. With an intact rotation, the Giants might have offered him a relief role, if they were even interested at all. Lincecum would prefer to start, of course. If Cain’s “issue” is severe, could their stance change?

“Not impossible” is music to the ears of Giants fans everywhere. Except for the ones who would prefer to see Chris Heston get bumped back into the rotation if Cain’s right elbow won’t cooperate this season. Or Clayton Blackburn. Anyone but Lincecum, who spent most of the last few seasons flailing against every team that doesn’t call San Diego home.

Again, Cain could be fine! It would be silly to push him through any pain, regardless of severity, in February.

I’ll admit, this is just my own reluctance to write a Lincecum/Giants obit, mostly. Until Heyman or Ken Rosenthal tweet that he signed with the Mariners, I can’t help but imagine a day in 2016 when we see the little guy stomp off the mound at the end of an inning — whether it’s after a strikeout or a sparkling defensive gem courtesy of Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik or Matt Duffy — pump his fist, and yell “F%#@ YEAH” one more time.

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