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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Tim Lincecum worked in a warehouse this winter, but not to stock shelves or fill orders.
He was taking inventory of himself.
“We threw down some turf, threw down a mound, a couple nets and some of my friends, who’ll let me throw anything at them,” said Lincecum, who rented out his private workout space in Seattle.
“I thought more throwing could be good to get my release and the feel for the ball coming out of my hand as early as I could, instead of finding it as I go.”
This marks a change for Lincecum, who used to go cold turkey in the offseason – not one pitch off a mound until his first bullpen session of the spring. In recent years, he mixed in a few winter mound sessions here and there.
And “finding it as I go” tended to take all spring. Over seven Cactus Leagues, only once has Lincecum posted an exhibition ERA under 4.00 (in 2011). He had a 10.57 ERA in five starts last year, a 5.70 ERA in the spring of 2012 and a 6.94 ERA in 2010. Even preceding his two Cy Young Award seasons, in ’08-’09, he had spring ERAs of 9.00 and 4.03, respectively.
It became a late-March ritual to hide Lincecum in minor league camp for a start or three, where he could bend the rules and reach his pitch count without getting blasted in the early innings.
Lincecum might have some stability with a new two-year contract. But he doesn’t want to feel his way along this time. It's one more manifestation of the changes he began to embrace late last season, when he paid more attention to preparation and scouting reports. Lincecum isn't winging it anymore. He said he’s interested in results this spring, including an ERA under 3.00. That’s why he started throwing off a mound so much earlier than usual.
A reporter began to ask: he doesn’t want a spring that ends …
“With a question mark and hoping?” said Lincecum, cutting off the questioner. “Definitely not.”
In his first official bullpen session of the spring Sunday, Lincecum did look a bit crisper while throwing to Buster Posey. He started out easy but began to reach back and throw harder toward the end of the session.
“I just went with how I felt,” he said. “And I felt good.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy concurred.
“Free and easy, letting it go,” Bochy said. “That’s what you expect from Timmy. That’s him. It’s like letting the horse out of the barn.”
Or the warehouse, in this case.