SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – All eyes will be trained on Tim Lincecum this season, and because his second outing of the spring Tuesday night was televised in the Bay Area, folks back home got to take their first look.
Hector Sanchez’s view was better than anyone else’s. And from 60 feet, 6 inches away, Lincecum looked fit and fortified.
“You can see how different he is, physically and mentally,” said Sanchez, who caught Lincecum as the right-hander threw 43 pitches in 2 1/3 innings. “He’s a different guy. He looked good. He looked comfortable and confident. He threw all his pitches down in the zone.
“This year he will do very good things, I think.”
The Giants managed to absorb a wildly ineffective season from Lincecum last year because the other four starters were so consistent. They can’t rely on that same remarkable run of health and consistency again. And plus Lincecum is entering his final season before free agency. So there’s more than wins and losses at stake. There’s his future in a Giants uniform.
Set back by a nasty blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, Lincecum has four starts left to build his pitch count before beginning the most interesting season of his life. Will it be enough time?
“I just have to make it work,” he said.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was more resolute.
“Yeah, sure. It’s plenty of time,” Bochy said. “No doubt in my mind. We’ll have him where we want him when the season starts, knock on wood nothing happens with the blister.”
Lincecum said the finger was a non-issue Tuesday. He didn’t appear to have anything holding him back in the first two innings, when a scout’s gun had his fastball topping out at 93 mph. Lincecum followed Kensuke Tanaka’s throwing error by getting a double-play grounder, then he threw a beautiful, rainbow changeup that struck out Mark Kotsay.
Lincecum issued a one-out walk and gave up a ground-ball single in the second inning, but threw a called fastball to strike out Cody Ransom and then fanned Rene Rivera to strand two runners. That was an encouraging inning, since Lincecum struggled to stem rallies so many times last year.
Bochy suspected Lincecum might have tired in the third, when he went to a pair of 3-0 counts and the last three batters went infield single-line single-triple to end his evening.
“But overall, a good job, good stuff,” Bochy said. “We got him where we wanted him. We have plenty of time. He had a good delivery. This was a good base for him.
“We’re not concerned with results so much as what the delivery looks like. And I think he’s stronger this spring. He’s definitely showing more arm strength. He worked hard this winter. That much is evident. I like where he’s at.”
Lincecum said he just got out of rhythm in the third inning and would see if he could notice a difference on video. He knows his spring ERA, now at 14.73 after getting charged with three runs on four hits Tuesday, doesn’t look great out of context. But he isn’t worried about it.
“I want to come in here and open eyes and right now the results aren’t what I want to get,” he said. “But the way my body feels compared to last year is night and day.”