OAKLAND — Tim Lincecum jogged out to right field at the Coliseum late Friday afternoon and briefly stood on the line, looking around for a throwing partner. For a moment he looked lost with his new team, but then he found his spot in line, flashed a wide smile and curled back into his famous delivery.
It will take some time for Giants fans to get used to seeing No. 55 in red instead of orange and black, but on his first day with his new team, Lincecum did his best to find comfort in a new home. He circled the clubhouse after entering for the first time, offering handshakes to young players and pats on the shoulder to veterans he has faced before. The whole time, a smile was plastered to the face of a 32-year-old looking to find a second life in the big leagues.
“I’m very lucky to have this opportunity, to be starting back here so quickly,” Lincecum said. “It was a long time coming, but I worked very hard. I had a team that recognized that hard work, so here we are.”
The location actually wasn’t all that foreign to Lincecum, who spent his first nine years with the Giants, crossing the bridge once or twice a year to pitch in Oakland. The early arrivers at the Coliseum flocked to Lincecum, and he obliged with a lengthy signing session in the right field corner during batting practice. After he spent an hour shagging fly balls in a baggy red sweatshirt, Lincecum, the last Angel off the field, spent 10 minutes signing for a row of fans lined up behind the dugout.
At one point Lincecum was thrown a bobblehead of himself, and he signed the base of the figure that’s a reminder of what he was and what he again wants to be. The long road back from hip surgery ends Saturday, when Lincecum makes his debut for the Angels. He said he’s feeling a range of emotions.
“I’m definitely excited to be out here and nervous about being with a new team and trying to show what I’ve got,” he said. “I’m trying to live up to my own expectations, really. (I want) to be successful. I don’t want to just go out there and roll over. I want to go out there and give my team a chance to win every day. I think that’s what all starters try to do.”
The Angels, with practically a whole rotation on the DL, were willing to give him that chance. Lincecum said he was happy to stay in California, “close to home,” and he’s thrilled that his debut comes in the Bay Area. He was hoping to see No. 55 Giants jerseys in the seats Saturday.
“I hope so, man, I really hope so,” Lincecum said. “It’s close to home. I know I’m going to have a lot of people here that support me in the Bay Area. I’ll be lucky in that regard.”
Lincecum has already gotten a taste of that. He made three rehab starts in Triple-A and he was a rock star along the way. Lincecum catered Outback Steakhouse for his Salt Lake Bees teammates, but he also went back to a player's minor league roots, grabbing a bucket and collecting balls during BP. Lincecum, who had not been in the minors since 2007, stayed with his Triple-A teammates at small hotels.
“He came into the clubhouse and he was just one of the guys,” said Angels reliever Mike Morin, who was Lincecum’s teammate for two of his minor league starts. “He was able to just pick up and continue to be who he was, and it was pretty cool to watch.”
Lincecum said the minor league stint helped him “refresh” his love for the game, comparing it to Barry Zito’s run through the minors last season. It also gave him the confidence that he’s once again 100 percent healthy. Lincecum had a 2.65 ERA in his three starts and gave up just one hit in seven innings in his final appearance over the weekend.
“I kind of took those three starts as my spring training,” Lincecum said. “I kept improving over every inning and that gave me the push to be here … I’m able to internally rotate on my left hip, which was something that was kind of eluding me, even more so as the years went on from 2011 on.
“Basically getting that back lets me get through my body towards home plate. I can stay on that line. Even just feeling healthy gives me that trust in all of my pitches to go into any count and throw what I want.”
Lincecum said his range of motion is all the way back in his hip, and he certainly looked like his old self as he chased down fly balls in the spacious Coliseum outfield. Aside from the jersey, everything about Lincecum was familiar, from the relaxed attitude during a lengthy media session to the hoodie and backwards hat he wore as he walked into the Angels clubhouse for the first time.
On Saturday, Lincecum will see for the first time if the results on the mound are familiar, too. The Angels are hopeful, and Lincecum will get a long look for a team that isn't in contention. He said he’s confident in his stuff, and eager to get back on a big league mound.
“I wouldn’t say I’m back to where I used to be,” Lincecum said, “But I’m pretty close.”