A year ago, everything about Tim Lincecum seemed almost manic in Scottsdale. Maybe that’s too harsh. A better word might be “anxious” or “antsy.”
On the field, everyone was obsessing over his radar gun numbers, which fluctuated throughout the Spring from “better than expected” to “are the baseballs a few ounces heavier tonight?” In the clubhouse, he seemed almost defensive. The blisters, the poor performance throughout the 2012 regular season, his possible future as a reliever, these were all subjects he didn’t seem comfortable conversing about.
After seeing him in person for the first time since last season, it appears that all the talk about a new Lincecum isn’t just Spring Training blather. The radar readings weren’t a story. He got into trouble in the fifth, giving up two singles and a double, allowing his first two runs this Spring in the process.
However, that was after four nearly-perfect innings (one hit, one walk, three strikeouts, no runs) that took startlingly few pitches to complete. With apologies to those who follow me on Twitter who might have seen me write this already, I got the feeling that Lincecum had the game completely under his control over those first four innings. It seemed like everything was out of control a year ago, and his mind seemed to be spinning throughout March and during most of the regular season.
“Right now I’m good. Three starts in, still progressing. I’m getting my arm strength back and throwing pitches for strikes. Getting fastballs away to righties, which is good, in to the lefties. I’m happy about it,” said Lincecum, who sees 200 innings as a goal he can attain for the first time since 2011.
“I’d like to see myself get back there. Push myself and challenge myself in that way. That comes down to preparation and leaving yourself with a lot more options when you go into each day. That starts with confidence and a plan, and going out there with the right mindset. I feel like I’m turning myself into a better pitcher in those regards.”
Preparation. Confidence. Plan. Those weren’t words we often heard last year, and for good reason.
Madison Bumgarner became the Giants’ ace in 2013, which is good in a sense because he’s young and under contract for so long. But Lincecum and Matt Cain — who has also looked great this Spring — were the pillars for so long of a rotation that built a reputation Lincecum doesn’t want to let slip away.
“With the prowess that our staff and our bullpen has had over the years, that’s one of those things that we take as a responsibility — to prepare better, get better and live up to that name. We fought for that name, and it’s only right that we do the same thing every year after that,” Lincecum said.
Spring Training notes
— The Giants won this game 4-3, on a walk-off single by Joaquin Arias. The Giants came into the bottom of the ninth down 3-2, but Hector Sanchez (more on him in a bit) started the rally with a single. Nick Noonan doubled, and after Brandon Hicks sacrificed Noonan to third, Arias deposited a pitch from some guy on the White Sox you’ve never heard of into center field to send the sellout crowd home happy.
— The atmosphere at these games is borderline insane. Almost everyone was still in their seats at the end of the contest, and the crowd cheered as if they were watching the Giants pull out a win over the Rockies at AT&T Park in May when Arias clinched the victory.
— The Giants are now 9-5 in Cactus League play, for those who are keeping track.
— Yesterday we saw Buster Posey’s home run follow-through take him down to one knee. Today he has a single and a double in three at-bats (he’s hitting .450 now), and the follow-through on his single was nowhere near as severe:
— This was one of the first photos I’ve ever taken of Mike Morse, and I have to imagine this is the kind of photo we’ll all have the opportunity to take at some point or another this year:
— But here’s the photo of the day (from my camera, anyway): Pablo Sandoval ducking out of the way of a high-and-tight fastball from Felipe Paulino.
— Back to Sanchez, who looked good at first base today. Like, REALLY good. He made two great defensive plays in the third inning, and in the fifth he made a really difficult backhanded catch on a one-hop smash off the bat of … Conor Gillaspie.
When told after the game by a reporter that he looked like a natural at first, Sanchez said, “I told you, it’s a piece of cake!”
— “He’s in a lot better shape than he was at this point last year. He had an injured shoulder and was trying to drop some pounds,” Bruce Bochy said of today’s starting first baseman. “But he’s come in camp in great shape. He made it look easy over there. I guess that’s a nice option to have if we want to get him in a game and we want to get Buster behind the plate. He’s earned another look over there, I’ll say that.”
— Brandon Belt is still out with a stomach virus, and when pressed on who’d take over his position if he happened to miss an extended period of time due to an injury (Belt should be back in action on Friday, don’t worry), Bochy said he’d consider Morse, Sanchez and Posey, along with Arias.
— I missed a chance to talk to Marco Scutaro because I was in the stands taking photos. Based on what the beat guys (here are links to Alex Pavlovic’s report, as well as Andrew Baggarly’s) wrote, he sounds pretty down in the dumps over his back and hip pain, especially because there’s no rhyme or reason for when it shows up.
Bochy said Scutaro — who took a few grounders and swings before the game — would need to play at least two days in a row before the team breaks camp in order to start on the active roster.
“We certainly need him to be optimistic. I know it’s frustrating for him. Sometimes these things, they turn a corner real fast. We’re still hopeful and optimistic that will happen. If not, we’ll have to go to Plan B,” Bochy said.
— Tim Lincecum is now a troll schooled in the art of the #BeltBash:
“Sanchez did an outstanding job (at first base). Looked like he was picking pitches for me down at home plate. I think Belt’s got to look out for his job right now.”
I also asked a question in that video about Lincecum’s progress in learning how to throw a sinker from Tim Hudson (hint: that’s not going to happen), but the video is all about the moustache. Lincecum is even playing to the character that the ‘stache brings. Yesterday he told Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, “I could see myself in one of those old vans with a ladder on the back and a bubble window.”
When Baggs asked Lincecum about whether he had already procured a van like that after today’s interview session was over, Lincecum said he was waiting until he got to San Francisco to buy one. He also said he’d have “Timmy’s Treats” painted on the side. He didn’t specify what kind of treats one would find in that van, though.