Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’
OAKLAND — At best, Andres Torres ranks as the Giants’ fourth outfielder. But he moved to the front of the line as a source of the Giants’ success in their 4-1 victory Tuesday night over the Oakland A’s.
Torres coaxed a first-inning walk on Vin Mazzaro’s 3-2 pitch and opened the scoring by rushing home on Pablo Sandoval’s double. Many runners might have held at third base. But third-base coach Tim Flannery, aiming to capitalize on Torres’ speed, waved the speedster home. Sure enough, A’s shortstop Orlando Cabrera’s hurried relay flew high and wide.
“He ignited us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Torres. “That showed you what speed can do. He plays with a lot of energy, which you love.”
Torres helped seal the victory by making a not-so-routine catch of Adam Kennedy’s fly ball against the wall down the left-field line in foul territory. It ended the seventh inning and stranded two A’s baserunners.
“He probably saved us with that catch,” Bochy said.
Torres’ grab propelled Tim Lincecum to his complete-game victory. “I thought he was going to run into the wall, which he did, but it was nice the ball stayed in the playing field,” Lincecum said of Torres’ grab. “I was as pumped as anybody else.”
Torres, who wouldn’t boast about his skills if you paid him, explained that common sense helped him make the play on Kennedy’s fly. Kennedy, said Torres, had been trying to hit the ball to the opposite field all evening — probably a wise ploy against Lincecum. So, said Torres, “I tried to play that way a little bit.”
Encountering the wall didn’t concern Torres in the least. “I was just trying to catch the ball,” he said.
I was all set to devote a sentence or two in my game wrapup to the Giants staying ahead in the National League Wild Card race. First, however, while waiting to interview Lincecum in the Giants clubhouse, I heard a player watch a televised sports report — I couldn’t tell which network was airing it — that trumpeted the Wild Card standings. This player shook his head in mild disgust. “Five years from now they’ll be talking about the Wild Card in April,” he told the Giant sitting next to him.
Translation: It’s far too early to make a big deal about the Wild Card. So I opted not to contribute to the hype.
I’ll occasionally mention it in the near future, though. It’s relevant to monitor, since the Giants’ position likely will influence what general manager Brian Sabean does or doesn’t do before the July 31 trade deadline. But getting overly worked up about it and delivering twice-daily updates is probably premature.
– Chris Haft
nsing that aware of d the game’s first run e
MIAMI — If you’ve looked ahead to the Giants’ probable starting pitchers for Monday series finale here and for Tuesday’s series opener at Arizona, you’ll find that the same guy is pitching both games: TBA.
Finding a starter for Tuesday isn’t the issue. Monday is the predicament for the Giants, whose rotation was jumbled by last Wednesday’s rainout at Washington. That forced them to use Randy Johnson and Matt Cain on the same day for Thursday’s doubleheader, meaning that if either one pitched Monday, he’d be working on three days’ rest, one fewer than usual.
Johnson’s bruised shoulder complicated matters somewhat. But the newest member of the 300-win club felt good Saturday as he played long toss and threw from pitching distance on flat ground.
The Big Unit said that his shoulder, which he fell on while making a fielding play in his milestone start, responded better than he thought it would. “I was encouraged,” he said. “We’ll see what they have planned and go from there.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said that the Giants’ options for Monday include:
– Johnson, who threw only 78 pitches in his last start but has that shoulder to deal with;
– Cain, who was limited to 82 pitches by the rainout in his game;
– Triple-A Fresno right-hander Billy Sadler, who pitched only one-third of an inning Friday in case the Giants decide they need him.
Though Johnson might appear to be an unlikely choice given his health status and age (45), he’s renowned for doing whatever he can to help his team. Pitching on Monday might fall into that category. Because if he’s pushed back to Tuesday, the sequence of the Giants’ rotation would consist of right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, followed by three consecutive left-handers — Johnson, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez. Currently, they have close to an alternating patten with Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and Sanchez.
Obviously, whoever doesn’t pitch Monday has a good chance of starting Tuesday.
– Chris Haft
SEATTLE — In a mild surprise, the Giants optioned Eugenio Velez to Triple-A Fresno to clear room for infielder Juan Uribe, who was reinstated from the bereavement list Friday.<p/>
Velez actually had begun to hit proficiently despite playing sporadically. He collected two hits in each of two starts during the San Diego series, hiking his batting average from .111 to .194.
But the Giants want Velez to play more regularly. And manager Bruce Bochy indicated that with only Bengie Molina and Pablo Sandoval available to catch, San Francisco can use the versatility of Frandsen, who has sharpened his skills at the position behind the scenes. Bochy said that Frandsen’s skills behind the plate exceeded those of a typical “emergency” catcher.
Also, as expected, Edgar Renteria returned to shortstop after missing six games with a strained right hamstring. Though Renteria entered Friday hitting a pedestrian .256, he ranked second on the club with 17 RBIs upon being sidelined. Bochy acknowledged that the Giants could have used Renteria during the San Diego series, which consisted of three low-scoring one-run defeats.
“He’s such a professional hitter,” Bochy said of Renteria. “We missed him. We played such tight ballgames. A guy like that could have made a difference in all those games.”
Seattle-area native Tim Lincecum held a dugout news conference for local media hungry for a word from The One Who Got Away.
Lincecum said all the right things, including when he was asked about whether he dwells on the Mariners’ bypassing him in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. “Not any more,” Lincecum said. “It’s just one of those things that happened and you go with it. I’m happy where I am.”
Lincecum spun a good line when asked what he remembered about Randy Johnson, who he grew up watching when the left-hander starred for the Mariners in the ’90s.
“The mullet and the fastball,” Lincecum said. “Not necessarily in that order.”
– Chris Haft
SAN DIEGO — It was worth asking about, though it might have been a silly idea. After all, some of you might have been thinking about the same thing, once it became certain that Tim Lincecum wouldn’t start in Seattle.
Checking into the possibility, however remote, that Lincecum might give Seattle fans what they want and pitch in relief during the Giants’ upcoming Interleague series in his hometown, I talked to the Cy Young Award winner himself and pitching coach Dave Righetti. Conceivably, Lincecum could be used in relief on Saturday, the day he’d normally throw in the bullpen between starts, or perhaps Sunday.
Lincecum said that he had not requested to be used in relief. He indicated that making such demands would be out of character: “That wouldn’t be my way,” he said.
Righetti reacted much more strongly when posed the question. “Heck no,” he said, though he actually said something a little more salty than “heck.”
“No, no definitely not. We wouldn’t do that,” Righetti continued, adding that Jonathan Sanchez would be the only starter the Giants would consider using in that role “because he has [relieving] experience.”
So Jesus Guzman grounded into a double play in his first Major League at-bat in Thursday’s seventh inning with runners on the corners and one out. But don’t let the GIDP in the boxscore deceive you.
Guzman made solid contact, but the ball hit the side of the mound, so it caromed more directly to Padres shortstop Chris Burke. Otherwise, Guzman might have had an RBI single.
“I thought he had a good at-bat,” Bochy said, referring to the fact that Guzman hit a couple of stinging fouls off reliever Joe Thatcher before hitting into the double play. “He got a bad break there.”
Then again, the words of Lincecum were applicable in this situation, though he was speaking of his inability to field a third-inning comebacker by Burke, who came around to score. ”Shoulda, coulda, woulda,” Lincecum said.
– Chris H.
SAN FRANCISCO — Watching Tim Lincecum pitch is the best show in baseball.
I declared that in my final Mailbag column (which has since given way to the Inbox) last December, and that feeling was reaffirmed Saturday as the diminutive Giant struck out 13 in eight shutout innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In a galling outcome for San Francisco, Arizona won, 2-0, with a pair of ninth-inning runs. But at least the Giants left the park knowing that their ace’s skills remained intact.
“He is so big for this ballclub. That’s no question,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s going to make us a better club having him healthy.”
Not that the Giants ever doubted Lincecum, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. But a handful of national baseball writers had expressed skepticism about the right-hander. Some cited scouts who pointed out that Lincecum’s velocity had diminished. Others considered the 49 2/3-inning increase in his workload last year over 2007 and whispered that his arm had weakened.
Lincecum knows this cynicism well.
“People are going to say what they want,” he said. “That’s been my whole life. People are saying I”m going to do something and I don’t. That just gives me more motivation to want to come out and get better. My expectations, of course, are the highest of anybody’s — [higher] than fans, my dad; I want to do better than any of them want me to. You try to live up to your own expectations; sometimes that can be tough. So you try to take a step back and make the game simple again. That’s what I tried to do today.”
What was simple wouldn’t have been possible without the subtle. By studying videotapes, Lincecum noticed that his left (front) foot was landing three inches closer than usual to the right-handed batter’s box. This flaw muted his fastball and threw his other deliveries askew. Steering his motion more directly toward home plate yielded the desired effect.
Improved health also helped. Bronchitis bothered Lincecum in Spring Training, and a queasy stomach nagged him as recently as this week.
But the Lincecum who lasted a combined 8 1/3 innings while compiling a 7.56 ERA in his previous two starts was gone. He was replaced by the Lincecum whose fastball reached 95 mph as late as the seventh inning — though, as always, he complemented his heat with his arresting curveball and sweeping change-up.
The fans, who ended an otherwise glorious afternoon by showering boos upon San Francisco’s hitters and relievers, released their pent-up Timmy-love early and often. They sounded appreciative after Lincecum struck out the final two batters to end both the first and second innings. But after he repeated this feat in the third inning, the crowd’s roar was even louder and more triumphant — as if spectators had just received undeniable confirmation that their hero had returned.
Lincecum ended three of the next five innings with strikeouts, giving fans ample opportunity to cheer in anticipation when the count reached two strikes. They did so without prompting from the scoreboard — a welcome development and an improvement over 2008, when two-strike counts caused an oafish “Make Some Noise”-type exhortation to appear on the Big Mitsubishi.
As is often the case with Lincecum, his effectiveness began with his pregame warmup — which he didn’t even begin until after the National Anthem was rendered. “Usually I try to use my bullpens to get loose and get a rhythm,” Lincecum said. “But today I made a little bit better point of trying to throw strikes as well as trying to get a rhythm. Make it more of a game-like situation.”
– Chris Haft
SAN DIEGO — When Bruce Bochy removed Jeremy Affeldt after the left-hander fell behind 2-0 on pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez in the seventh inning, it was easy to imagine that the manager was impatient with the reliever for falling behind on the count.
That assumption, like many others, was false.
Affeldt had thrown 22 pitches, and probably would have needed a few more to finish the inning. With left-handed batters Andre Ethier, James Loney, Blake DeWitt and Doug Mientkiewicz awaiting the Giants in Los Angeles, Bochy wants Affeldt to be fresh. So he took the unconventional step of removing Affeldt in the middle of a plate appearance.
“I didn’t want to work him,” Bochy said. “We may need him tomorrow.”
Tim Lincecum’s next outing will be Saturday against Arizona. I expect him to pitch a strong game. Then again, I expected that here, and look what happened.
Lincecum doubtlessly has encountered mini-slumps like this before, and they didn’t stop him from reaching the Major Leagues. He’s good at analyzing himself, and if he has any questions, he can consult his father, Chris, who knows his pitching mechanics best of all. Lincecum might not finish 18-5 as he did last year, but he’ll remind everybody just how formidable he is sooner than later.
Ah, the first Giants-Dodgers series of the season. Time to unearth Willie McCovey’s great line about the rivalry: “You can hear the electricity.” The non-stop buzz, whether real or perceived, is intoxicating.
It’ll be intriguing to see how Randy Johnson, Monday’s starter for the Giants, responds to being thrust into baseball’s best rivalry (yes, I said “best.” I’ll explain some other time). As intense as Johnson is, it probably won’t make a difference in his approach. Not like when Juan Marichal or John “The Count” Montefusco would get extra pumped-up to face the Dodgers. The Big Unit gets pumped up to face everybody.
– Chris Haft
SAN DIEGO — At the risk of contradicting myself, I’m about to point out the redeeming qualities of the mostly underwhelming performances by the Giants’ starting pitchers through the first turn of the rotation.
As noted in Saturday night’s final game report, the rotation’s 6.46 ERA won’t help the Giants win. But, after all, it was just the first go-round. And if you really wanted to pick apart each game, you can see that quality exists. It’s just a matter of each pitcher gaining consistency. For example:
Opening Day starter Tim Lincecum struck out five in three innings. He lacked fastball command, allowing three runs in three innings, but there’s nothing wrong with his arm.
The next night, Randy Johnson remained in control until his fifth and final inning. If he can keep the ball in the park (homers accounted for all four runs off him), he’ll win more than he loses.
Matt Cain’s Thursday performance (one run and four hits allowed in seven innings) was beyond reproach.
Barry Zito looked so smooth in his final three innings Friday that you wonder how he would have done if he hadn’t stepped all over himself in the first inning (39 pitches, three runs).
Jonathan Sanchez was absolutely dominant, striking out five of the six Padres he faced in the first two innings. Then Henry Blanco took him deep twice, which was inexcusable, and he lost his release point.
As they say, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, I could make a small fortune selling trail mix. But you can see how, with a little tweak here and there, the rotation could and should round into shape relatively soon.
– Chris Haft
SAN FRANCISCO — The highlight of Wednesday night’s pregame ceremony in which Tim Lincecum was publicly presented with his Cy Young Award plaque (he initially received it at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner in January) was the fan reaction.
Lincecum, the symbol of the franchise’s hope, received a standing ovation lasting nearly 30 seconds, reflecting the ardor he has inspired during a Major League career that’s not yet two years old.
Any Giants fan older than 45 years old probably savored hearing Mike McCormick, the club’s only other Cy Young recipient who received the honor in 1967, say while introducing Lincecum, “I’ve been waiting 41 years to pass the torch.”
Lincecum was gracious once he took the microphone, thanking “the best fans in baseball” and his father, Chris, who taught him his unique pitching mechanics. He also shook hands with each of his teammates, who had gathered behind him during the ceremony, as they left the field.
Just before that, Lincecum said in exhortation over the mike, “Let’s go get them in 2009.”
– Chris Haft
SAN FRANCISCO — Giants manager Bruce Bochy said late Tuesday morning, just as the rain stopped falling at AT&T Park, that he and other principals would meet at noon to discuss their options.
Those options included declaring a rainout and playing a doubleheader Wednesday; adjusting Tuesday’s starting time (there were reports that the rain would cease from around noon to 3 or 4 p.m. or playing the game on a mutual off-day later in the season, which would be darned near impossible.
This is the Brewers’ lone visit to San Francisco, which heightens the urgency to play. Besides, no manager wants to try to get his team through a doubleheader at this juncture in the season.
“Do you want to do it this early? No. But it’s something we could get through,” Bochy said. “Everybody would play.”
Bochy indicated that he and his Milwaukee counterpart, Ken Macha, would pay particular attention to the early-afternoon forecast. “What we don’t want to have happen is we start the game and both teams lose their starter,” Bochy said.
The Giants have the ideal pitcher for this situation going to the mound: Tim Lincecum, who performed in foul weather numerous times while growing up in the Seattle area and attending the University of Washington.
As Bochy related, Lincecum could handle short notice to get ready to pitch. “Just give me 15 minutes,” Lincecum told the skipper.
– Chris Haft
SAN FRANCISCO — The numbers say that Tim Lincecum has allowed 10 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings spanning his last three starts against Major League competition. That’s a 5.87 ERA, which isn’t what the Giants expect from their Cy Young Award winner.
But the eyes say that Lincecum looks ready for his Opening Day assignment on April 7 against the Milwaukee Brewers at AT&T Park.
Lincecum allowed only four hits in 5 2/3 innings Thursday against the A’s and struck out eight — six, a still-decent number, excepting A’s pitcher Trevor Cahill’s two punchouts. The Giants ace retired the hitters he needed to subdue. Jason Giambi struck out twice, Matt Holliday went 0-for-2 with runners on base and Jack Cust went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.
“I felt like I had all my pitches going today,” Lincecum said. “My curveball felt the best it has in a while; the changeup was good.”
Lincecum mildly complained about the location of his fastball, the pitch Eric Chavez hammered for a two-run, fourth-inning homer. I have a hunch that Lincecum wouldn’t throw the same pitch to the same type of hitter in the same situation during the regular season. Or, if he did, he’d make it a better fastball.
“You think you can sneak one by him every once in a while,” Lincecum said. “That one was, I’m guessing, right in his wheelhouse. He put a pretty good swing on it.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled Lincecum in the sixth inning after he walked Chavez on four pitches with two outs and one run in. “I didn’t feel like I was losing anything,” Lincecum said. “One batter got away from me.”
Next time, Lincecum will have to be a little more airtight. But we all know he’s capable of that.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s two errors, which doubled his Cactus League total, might have been a mild concern to Giants fans. Bochy, however, remained patient.
“It’s going to take a couple of days to adjust to this infield,” Bochy said. “It’s a completely different type of infield than he’s used to playing on.”
For one thing, it’s a much better infield than the ones in Arizona, which were sun-baked and produced bad hops. But the pace of groundballs at AT&T is slower, which could have thrown Sandoval a changeup, figuratively speaking.
“The ball’s not getting on you quite as quickly,” Bochy said. He also noted that Thursday night’s stiff wind could have altered the course of a grounder or two — that’s right, it doesn’t happen with just fly balls — which would have flummoxed Sandoval further.
Sandoval also went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two RBIs. Overall, he did just fine.
– Chris Haft