SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It took a while for Tim Lincecum to settle in Saturday, but once he found his rhythm, Lincecum gave the Giants exactly what they hoped to see from their fifth starter. Lincecum couldn’t find the strike zone in his first inning but retired 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced while throwing a spring-high four innings.
Most importantly, Lincecum said the neck stiffness that caused him to miss a start wasn’t an issue. All he had to do was some precautionary stretching.
“We’ll make sure we’re on top of it and it doesn’t come back,” Lincecum said. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Making his first appearance in 10 days, Lincecum threw 41 pitches, 24 of which were strikes. He gave up one run on two hits and a walk, but struck out none of a backup-heavy Angels lineup after piling up whiffs early in the spring. Lincecum said he was moving too quickly through his mechanics in the first two innings, when he gave up the run and caught a few breaks on hard-hit balls that went for outs.
“I didn’t get in a rhythm until the third inning,” he said. “I was fighting myself until then.”
The Giants were simply anxious to see Lincecum back on a mound. He woke up one morning with a stiff neck and it lingered longer than expected, but Lincecum doesn’t think he’ll have any additional issues with the neck. His conditioning isn’t a problem, thanks to 49 throwing sessions in the offseason.
“I would have liked not to have that hiccup but I did a lot of work this offseason,” Lincecum said. “Arm strength isn’t the biggest thing because I worked on it a lot in the offseason.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said that Lincecum remains one of his five starters despite the layoff, but as always, he left the door open for the Giants to make a change if a pitcher isn't up to speed. Matt Cain and Tim Hudson are a tad behind of where they normally would be pitch-count-wise and Lincecum has thrown just eight innings all spring.
"Hopefully we have them all healthy," Bochy said.
Other news and notes from the day an Angels parking attendant inexplicably kept a Giants position player out of the players lot, even though he drove to the park in his jersey …
HEALTH WATCH: It was a good day for the ailing. Angel Pagan (stiff back) was bouncing around the clubhouse, and he went out on the field to do some light throwing and hit off a tee; Pagan could be back in the lineup Tuesday or Wednesday. Andrew Susac feels much better after getting a cortisone shot in his right wrist, and he’ll play Sunday.
Erik Cordier has been dealing with some forearm tightness, which usually is a big issue, but he said the tightness is related to the movement in his fingers, not his elbows. Cordier’s ligament was checked and it’s fine.
POSITION BATTLE: Hector Sanchez came here as the underdog in the race to back up Buster Posey. At this point, he has to be a clear favorite. Sanchez had two hits today and made a strong throw in the bottom of the eighth to cut down what would have been the go-ahead run (the Angels won, anyway). He has had a solid spring, and Susac hasn't been able to play much because of wrist inflammation.
"He had a great game," Bochy said. "That's who Hector can be. He caught well, that was a great throw to second, he's swinging the bat. It was a good game for him."
NOTEWORTHY: Brandon Crawford played defense like a man who wants me to write another 3,000-word feature about his defense. Crawford had a leaping stab of a liner to short and later made a nice throw from the hole … Roger Kieschnick pinch-hit for the Angels and had an infield single ... Nori Aoki finally hit the ball with some authority, picking up two hits, including a triple.