SAN FRANCISCO -– Tim Lincecum wasn’t effective enough to end the season in the rotation, or be a factor in the playoffs.
But the Giants plan for him to begin as one of their starting five next season.
“Timmy, I see him going back in the rotation,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, at Thursday’s news conference to map out the offseason. “We have a need there. That’s fair to say.”
The Giants probably shouldn’t try to win a World Series with one effective starting pitcher again, no matter how good Madison Bumgarner was in October. They received just one quality start in 11 postseason games when Bumgarner didn’t throw the first pitch. Their starting staff had a 3.74 ERA in the regular season, which ranked 10th among 15 NL teams and the worst of those to make the playoffs.
Questions abound. Matt Cain is coming off elbow and ankle surgeries. Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy are free agents. Even Bumgarner must be watched after setting a postseason record for innings and throwing 270 in all – the most by a Giant in a calendar year since 1973.
And Lincecum is one more year into his second life as an erstwhile Cy Young winner. He finished with a 4.74 ERA this season, which ranked 44th out of 47 NL pitchers to make a minimum of 25 starts. His peripheral stats didn’t change much from the previous year, except his career-low K rate of 7.7 per nine innings was down a full strikeout from 2013 (8.8).
But Lincecum has one more year on his contract, and the Giants apparently cannot abide the thought of an $18 million long reliever.
“At times he was very good this year,” Bochy said. “He went through a streak when he was throwing the ball as well as anybody. It’s all about trying to get better and improve as a player and pitcher, and that’s what Timmy’s gonna do.”
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In an eight-start run from June 8 to July 20 that included a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres, Lincecum posted a 2.11 ERA and .164 opponent’s average. He threw seven quality starts over that stretch.
He threw just six more in his other 18 starts.
There will be no attempted overhaul of Lincecum’s conditioning or mechanics, Bochy said.
“As far as something drastic, no, I don’t see him doing that,” Bochy said. “Our hope is he bounces back and throws the ball the way he did for six to seven weeks there. He was really good. He’ll come to spring, knowing Timmy, very determined to get back on track and get back to being the pitcher we know.”
The problem: By now, we know the current iteration of Lincecum as well if not better than the pitcher he used to be.
If Lincecum rejoins the rotation along with Cain, Bumgarner and Tim Hudson, the Giants would have one open slot and no upper-level arms in a position to provide depth. That could make it an either/or proposition to re-sign Peavy or Vogelsong -- and that's if they bring back Yusmeiro Petit in a long relief role even though he’s shown the ability to hold down a place in the rotation.
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Bochy was far more concrete about Lincecum’s place in the rotation than he was when asked about Petit, saying only that the quiet right-hander “gives us options.”
“I don’t’ know what’s going to happen but we know we have a guy who can be in the bullpen or start, and that’s nice to know.”
Both Vogelsong and Peavy were told to sit tight while the Giants try to re-sign or otherwise find a resolution with Pablo Sandoval.
Marco Scutaro, who has another year on his contract, remains in limbo with Bochy saying the “best scenario I guess is he has a good winter and finds any way, I can’t say through surgery, but any program he gets on that allows him to come back and help us out in some way or form.” … Bochy hoped Hector Sanchez could arrive in the spring in better shape and with no concussion symptoms so he could compete with Andrew Susac for the backup catcher position. … Angel Pagan told Bochy that his back surgery was “the best thing that could happen to him” and “gave him instant relief.” … Bench coach Ron Wotus is among nine names on the Tampa Bay Rays’ long-short list in their managerial search. Said Bochy: “He’s a guy that really runs our defense here and helps me quite a bit before the game, during the game. He runs spring training. He’s ready, no question about it, so I think he’ll bring a lot of experience or knowledge to any club that will hire him.”