Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’

Are the starters really that bad? Likely, no

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

Celebrating Lincecum and themselves

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 

Decision at high noon

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 

Lincecum looks good; Sandoval seems shaky defensively

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 

Sandoval, Renteria sustain mild injuries

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Third baseman Pablo Sandoval and shortstop Edgar Renteria sustained mild injuries in the Giants’ 11-10 exhibition loss to the San Diego Padres at Peoria, Ariz.

Sandoval sprained his left ankle while trying to avoid a pitch and Renteria developed tightness in his right (throwing) elbow, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Bochy added that although Sandoval will rest for at least one day, the same injury might not sideline him in the regular season. Renteria, said Bochy, might play Sunday against Milwaukee.

Still, these minor ailments foil Bochy’s plan to play his regulars for three days in a row. He also wants them to play significant numbers of innings to condition them for the regular season. But the slow pace of Saturday’s game — it took about two hours to play four innings — forced Bochy to remove some of his regulars prematurely. Also, catcher Bengie Molina stayed in Scottsdale on Saturday to catch Tim Lincecum in a Minor League exhibition and probably will skip Sunday’s game to collaborate with Randy Johnson, who’s getting his work in by pitching in a Minor League intrasquad game.

Though Friday night’s Jack Taschner trade robbed the Giants of a left-handed relief option, Bochy said that he would not hesitate to use an all-right-handed bullpen, save for Jeremy Affeldt. Asked if he’d find this arrangement comfortable, Bochy said, “It will be if e feel we have at least a guy or two who can get left-handers out. It doesn’t matter if they’re left-handed or right-handed.”

One other news tidbit: Right-hander Osiris Matos stayed at home Saturday with flu-like symptoms.  

Sandoval continues to amaze; Lincecum, Posey linked

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In the eighth inning of the Giants’ 5-1 loss to Seattle on Monday, Pablo Sandoval singled through the right side of the infield. Given Sandoval’s .442 batting average, that wasn’t startling.

What WAS startling was that Sandoval hit a pitch that skipped in the dirt. It was just another example of the 22-year-old switch-hitter’s free-swinging tendencies — and of his considerable skill.

“Some guys are meant to get hits all the time,” veteran Rich Aurilia marveled.

Hitting coach Carney Lansford said, “We have people coming out early to work with guys on that swing.” Lansford was joking … we think.

Another event worth remembering was the first on-field collaboration in an organized game between right-hander Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey, who caught the final three innings. If the baseball gods smile upon the Giants, this will be the first of many times Lincecum and Posey work together. It was believed to be the first time that winners of the Golden Spikes Award (given annually to the nation’s top collegiate player) formed a battery.

“He needs to get back there,” Lincecum said. “It’s good for both of us to get a feel for each other. It’s a little different because we haven’t gotten a chance to see what kind of pitcher and what kind of catcher we are.”

Lincecum related that Posey, who didn’t call pitches in college, understandably struggled with this task.

“He’s like, ‘I don’t know what [signs] to give you, man,’ ” Lincecum related good-naturedly. “He’s just throwing down numbers and stuff. I was like, ‘OK, sounds like a good pitch.’ ” 

What to expect on Monday

PHOENIX — In what could be one of the Giants’ most intriguing exhibition games in years (I know, “intriguing” and “exhibition” contradict each other), both Randy Johnson and Tim Lincecum will pitch against the Seattle Mariners in Scottsdale.

It’ll be a truly intriguing encounter for Mariners fans. First comes Johnson, who blossomed into a star while pitching for Seattle from 1989 to 1998. He’ll be followed by Lincecum, the Seattle-area native who the Mariners snubbed in the 2006 draft — leaving him for the Giants to take with the 10th overall selection.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that he expects Johnson, who missed his last start with irritation in his biceps, to pitch three innings. Bochy added that Lincecum just might work the rest of the game — which would enable the right-hander to keep pace with Barry Zito and Matt Cain in terms of advancing toward season-opening stamina. The aftereffects of bronchitis weakened Lincecum last Wednesday, when he allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Cubs.

For several Giants, the morning will be unpleasant, or inevitable, depending on their point of view. Bochy and his staff will option or reassign a sizable number of players to Minor League camp, another sign that the Giants are getting down to serious business this spring.

– Chris Haft 

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