Programming note: Giants Insider Andrew Baggarly is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – There’s usually a lot of helium in Tim Lincecum’s spring training ERA. There are times he has been downright flammable here.
So you’d imagine the erstwhile ace would be ecstatic about tossing two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut on Monday, extending what has been a solid initial run for Giants starting pitchers.
But this is a different Lincecum you’re seeing now, and we’re not just referring to the caterpillar he’s growing on his upper lip.
“I was having trouble in that second inning, gliding my hip,” said a sober Lincecum, after holding the San Diego Padres to a walk, a hit and striking out one. “Instead of rotating toward home plate, I was making my arm drag a little. That’s one thing I can work on.”
As I’ve mentioned a few times, this is Lincecum’s eighth spring with the Giants. Only once has he posted a Cactus League ERA under 4.00. This time, he’s no longer satisfied with or confident in his ability to figure things out as he goes. That’s why he rented a Seattle warehouse this winter and threw off an indoor mound – something he had done sparingly in the past.
Lincecum tends to drop off the radar in the winter, so there were years when he’d report for spring training and club officials would have no idea what kind of program he had done, or if he did anything at all.
Now they can see evidence of the work. And Lincecum can, too.
“Everybody is looking for results, but we’re all getting the work in that we need,” Lincecum said. “It’s not just about throwing zeroes.”
So far, though, the zeroes from Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong have been impressive. If you throw in left-hander Edwin Escobar, considered an heir apparent for the rotation, they have 10 scoreless between them. (Matt Cain had to throw on the side after his start Saturday got interrupted by a tarp malfunction at Cubs Park.)
Add up Lincecum, Bumgarner, Hudson, Vogelsong and Escobar and this is what you get: 10 innings, three hits, no runs, one walk, six strikeouts.
As if to prove he arrived ready, Lincecum’s first batter of the spring, Will Venable, hit a two-hopper back to the mound. Lincecum barehanded it and threw him out. It was the first of three grounders he got in that first inning.
Working out of the stretch in the second inning, Lincecum succeeded at making an adjustment on the mound – something that has been such a struggle for him the previous two years. Instead of reaching back to get something extra on a 2-2 pitch to Jace Peterson, Lincecum took something off a fastball. He came out throwing 90-92. This one was 88.
Peterson struck out – a good result.