Kruk & Kuip: 'Difficult way to lose the game'
Giants bullpen coach Mark Gardner talks to Buster Posey (left) and Tim Lincecum during the seventh inning on Saturday. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – There will be many reasons for Tim Lincecum to seek a fresh start in free agency.
He won’t have to compare every start, good or bad, to his compiled history as a Giant, good or bad. He won’t deal with the insanely high expectations. He can go home to Seattle, or someplace else, and while he’ll always be recognized on the street, there’s a difference between celebrity and all-out rock star.
But there are reasons to stay, too. And one of them might be Buster Posey.
Lincecum held the Rays to a run in seven innings of the Giants’ 2-1, 10-inning loss at Tropicana Field Saturday night. It was his fourth quality start out of five.
And afterward, Lincecum reiterated what he’s been saying ever since his no-hitter in San Diego last month: He’s spending more time breaking down hitters, pitching to the scouting reports and game planning with Posey. And as a result, they’re on the same page.
“That’s alleviating some stress,” he said. “That gives me more of a mental edge than I’ve had in the past.”
Lincecum is working quickly. He’s getting the sign and throwing. That’s what helps him get and stay in a good rhythm, and not overthink on the mound. Even at the height of his powers, he always stressed the importance of rhythm, timing and confidence.
“We’re working well together right now,” Posey said. “He’s definitely putting in his time before the game and coming up with a game plan. I think that probably helps his confidence going into the game, knowing he’s well prepared.”
On his day to pitch, Lincecum used to joke with reporters and just chill out in the dugout while his teammates took batting practice. He was the whiz kid who could ace the test without studying for it. Now you barely see him when it’s his turn to take the mound.
Posey is helping Lincecum in other ways. He's worlds better than Hector Sanchez, his sometime personal catcher last year, at blocking pitches in the dirt. Lincecum throws a lot of those. And while attempted base stealers are 17 for 17 against Lincecum, the most thefts against any pitcher in the majors without a caught stealing, Posey's presence dissuades teams from running wild against him. Posey does other things, too -- like running 110 feet to back up a wild throw that got past first baseman Brett Pill, then heaving a long throw to second base to throw out a runner. Wil Myers would've been on second base with no outs in the third inning. Instead, Lincecum could go right back to the windup, and work quickly without checking a runner.
Makes you wonder … now that he and Posey are working so well together, would that play into Lincecum’s decision whether to accept a qualifying offer, or come back to the Giants on some other terms, next year?
He insisted he’s not thinking about that, or finishing strong (he has quality starts in four of his last five) to boost his free agency.
“It really doesn’t (enter the mind),” he said. “I’m just naturally competitive. When I see things going one way, I want to make a change to get better.”
At any rate, this is a far cry from all those “why don’t Posey and Lincecum get along” questions that so many fans were asking last year.