SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – On the eve of FanFest last month, Tim Lincecum said one of his major goals this spring would be to develop a rapport with catcher Buster Posey.
Lincecum knew he and Posey probably would form a battery more often this season. And privately, the right-hander wanted to diffuse the lingering controversy over why the Giants’ two highest profile players seldom worked together in 2012.
Between a rainout and a stubborn blister, it took almost four weeks of exhibition games before the reigning NL MVP caught the two-time Cy Young Award winner. They teamed up for four innings against the Colorado Rockies in a 9-7 victory on Sunday.
“No issues between us – again,” Lincecum said, smiling as he anticipated the question from reporters.
A reporter pointed it out: nobody asked if there was an issue.
“I’m answering it, though,” he said.
Odds are, Posey is going to be catching Lincecum more often – especially if Hector Sanchez (shoulder soreness) has to begin the season on the disabled list. Giants manager Bruce Bochy will find it a lot harder to keep Posey at the same workload when it means putting Guillermo Quiroz’s bat in the lineup.
Lincecum has no issue with that, either. And after his session with reporters ended, he told me what he most valued about having Posey as a teammate.
“The thing I recognize most with Buster is his professionalism,” Lincecum said. “That title will stick with him his whole career. It’s not that he’s dead serious, but he knows what he needs to do and he does that. There’s no wasted energy. He’s just very efficient with everything he does.
“You take that first day and everyone is wide eyed when they step in here. With him, he was focused right away.”
Lincecum’s focus remains the same: build his pitch count, establish a good rhythm and work harder in between starts than he did in the past.
This was not Lincecum’s finest outing. He only threw 37 of 68 pitches for strikes while allowing two runs in four innings. He walked three and only struck out one. His fastball was 91 mph in the first inning and mostly in the 88-90 range after that – a tick below the 93 mph he hit in his previous start.
In the first inning, he got two quick fly outs and had an 0-2 count on Carlos Gonzalez before losing him on a walk. Then Troy Tulowitzki crushed an RBI double on the first pitch, and Michael Cuddyer, after getting ahead 3-1 on balls in the dirt, ripped a fastball for a single that made it 2-0.
It was the kind of inning that dogged Lincecum all last season, when he often seemed incapable of slamming the door.
He got fortunate in the second inning, too, when Josh Rutledge lined out to strand two runners.
The third inning was much better. Gonzalez and Tulowitzki hit deep outs to the warning track, but only because the ball appeared to be carrying like a Titleist. And Lincecum found a groove, throwing his fastballs in curveball counts and vice versa.
“Things started to come out of my hand better,” he said. “It came down to spotting the fastball. The curves were not necessarily strikes but they were swinging at them.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he liked the way Lincecum was progressing.
“He’s going after the hitters now,” Bochy said. “I like where he’s at.”
Lincecum said the blister on his middle finger is no longer a thought.
Perhaps if he and Posey can partner together on many more scoreless innings, those other questions won’t be worth a thought, either.