SAN DIEGO – First, most obvious question for Tim Lincecum: Did he ice his arm after throwing 148 pitches in his no-hitter Saturday night?
“Nope,” he said Sunday. “Not even in the drinks I didn’t have last night.”
He received a champagne dousing while still in uniform, though. And a half-day after one of the sweetest, most memorable pitching performances in Giants history, Lincecum was able to let his accomplishment soak through to the skin.
He said the reactions from his family and close friends, and hearing the excitement in their voices, was the warmest part of the afterglow.
And what about his father, Chris?
“He reacted the same way he does to everything,” Lincecum said. “He acts like a little kid, being a smart ass. He has a weird way of showing his love, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Lincecum shared many more thoughts on the night, and how it was emblematic of the way he’s committed to evolving as a pitcher following 1 ½ highly inconsistent seasons.
But first, a few particulars: Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he likely would give Lincecum the fourth game of the season out of the break, which would come July 22 against the Reds – the club that no-hit the Giants just 11 days before Lincecum’s night.
He’d get eight days of rest between starts.
Lincecum said his arm felt fine one day after throwing the most pitches by a Giant since Vida Blue in 1979. He said he planned to play catch Sunday, too, although I didn’t personally witness it.
In fact, he might have been most sore from the hit that catcher Buster Posey laid on him as Gregor Blanco caught the final out in left field.
I asked Lincecum: Will some fans and radio honks continue to insist there’s a beef between he and Posey now?
“I don’t know, I guess it looked like we were so angry at each other when he picked me up off the mound,” said Lincecum, tongue most definitely in cheek.
As for his arm, though, Bochy said he had no regrets over letting Lincecum throw so many pitches, especially since he was in such a groove and didn’t appear to overthrow at all.
“On days like that … you let the dog run,” Bochy said. “I felt he had a night when everything was working well and the stamina was there.”
Besides, Bochy knew that any risk would be worth greater rewards than just personal satisfaction or the achievement of throwing a no-hitter. It could have far-reaching rewards for a club that looked ready to be toe-tagged when it arrived at Petco Park.
“Things like this will bring a club together,” Bochy said. “We’ve been through so much. As a manager, you look for things that can bring a club together and do something for their morale and psyche. Something like this does a lot for the team.”
What will it do for Lincecum? Well, for starters, it’ll prove to any doubters that he can be successful even though he no longer touches 98 mph.
“I guess I’ve got something to say back to them now,” he said, smiling.
I asked him: Do you still consider yourself a power pitcher?
“Uh, I think I’ve got to treat myself as that,” he said. “I’m not showing it on the gun or anything like that. But when I try to throw the pitches, I throw them with the intent of a power pitcher, I guess you could say.”
He’ll enter the break with such a different frame of mind than last season, when he got shelled at Pittsburgh to leave him at 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA that ranked as the plumpest among NL starters. He’s only 5-9, but his 4.26 ERA is more than respectable compared to last year. And the Giants are 8-11 in his starts, which is better than their 3-10 record behind Lincecum entering the break a year ago.
This time, at the break, he’s putting away his cleats for posterity, and sending his cap and a game ball to the Hall of Fame. (Not the last out, though. He’s keeping that one.)
How has he gotten from that point to where he is now?
“I think you have to buy into the right changes and not be resistant to them and be accepting of the process of what that means,” Lincecum said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean getting results you need right away. It’s studying the hitters better and going over my mechanics to the point where I’m not trying to overthrow. It’s more about working on placement and having that attention out there.”
Would it be an exaggeration to say Lincecum had to be dragged into embracing some of those changes?
“It’s a fair assumption to say that,” he said, candidly. “I always kind of wanted to rely on the fact I had good stuff and I knew how to pitch because of the experiences I’ve had. I’ve been able to get back to studying hitters and finding tendencies and finding weak spots and exploiting them, I guess you can say.”
As I wrote last night, Lincecum is finally understanding that his focus needs to be about competing against the hitter – not against himself.
And then you have the Swayze factor.
Lincecum spun mostly Phil Collins in his pregame music mix Saturday, but he added “Hungry Eyes” from the “Dirty Dancing soundtrack. A precedent has been set, no?
“Oh, I’ll just watch “Dirty Dancing” next time,” Lincecum said. “Maybe it’ll get better.”