Kruk and Kuip: 'All eyes are on Tim Lincecum'
Tim Lincecum's 10.97 ERA and 2.25 WHIP in 2013 Cactus League play is not a confidence inspirer. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Over the years, Tim Lincecum has learned not to be results-obsessed in spring training. Even in some of his Cy Young seasons, he had his share of Cactus League stinkers.
But Lincecum won’t get the same benefit of the doubt from the outside world this year. And he has more at stake than ever – including the colors he’ll wear beyond 2013.
So even though Lincecum and Giants manager Bruce Bochy put a good face on an abysmal start Saturday, there’s no way anyone in black and orange can feel good about the right-hander’s 10.97 ERA and 2.25 WHIP.
That’s where Lincecum’s exhibition numbers stood after he threw 80 pitches and couldn’t record an out in the fourth inning. He faced 18 batters and retired exactly half of them, giving up five runs on six hits and three walks.
At least five of the hits were singles, including a couple ground balls that found holes. But also, there was Yoenis Cespedes’ two-run home run that traveled at Chuck Yeager speed onto the left field berm.
“Spinning slider,” said Lincecum, who needed to double and triple up an effective curveball because he couldn’t keep his fastball below the belt.
“For me, the heater was just up in the zone,” catcher Buster Posey said. “That was the main thing.”
Lincecum has been set back by a blister and is probably two starts behind the other four members of the rotation. He’ll have one more exhibition outing, likely Thursday against the A’s at AT&T Park. Then if plans hold, he’ll pitch the third game of the regular season April 3 at Dodger Stadium.
[BAGGARLY: Another setback for Pablo Sandoval's elbow]
Lincecum said he has enough time to get his pitches straightened out.
“I feel it’s enough,” said Lincecum, whose 5.18 ERA last season led all NL pitchers that qualified for the ERA title. “The stuff was moving around pretty well. It just comes down to location. I’m not repeating my mechanics. Once I get there, I don’t feel I’m too far off. It should all coincide and the timing should be good.
“Physically and confidence wise, I’m out there still thinking I can get outs. If I make pitches, it’ll be good."
Lincecum won’t find the believers as plentiful as they used to be. But it should be pointed out that Posey is among them.
“Timmy’s working his tail off and that’s the main thing,” Posey said. “In between each start, he’s in the weight room all the time. That’s what it’ll take – keep on grinding.”
Bochy said Lincecum was “just off today” but didn’t express much outward concern, saying he was encouraged by the right-hander’s previous two outings.
I asked Bochy: Is there a good chance Lincecum could stay back when camp breaks and face minor leaguers rather than pitch against the A’s on Thursday at China Basin?
“We haven’t talked about that,” Bochy said. “Have him throw a bullpen and go back out there. That’s what you do. Today, he was out of sync. It was obvious from the start.”
I saved you from reading a litany of bad Lincecum spring stats over the years. But one I’ll mention: In 2010, he ended the spring with a 2.40 WHIP. And he ended up leading the league in strikeouts that season.
Brandon Belt is amazing his teammates, and everyone else. He hit his third home run in two days – and his seventh this spring, which leads the Cactus League. Hunter Pence dropped a big “WOW” while watching Belt go deep on a clubhouse television.
It’s no coincidence that Dan Runzler was tabbed to inherit Lincecum’s two runners in the fourth. Bochy wanted to see how Runzler would respond with runners on base after a rough outing the other day.
The left-hander didn’t pass the test. He allowed both runs to score and kept throwing one breaking pitch in the dirt after another. Posey had one wild pitch skip past him and another glanced off his glove for a wild pitch.
Posey had two passed balls in the game.
Catching Lincecum is not easy. Catching Runzler lately has been next to impossible.
Santiago Casilla is officially back in the fold. He looked crisp while throwing a scoreless inning.
And Angel Pagan got off to a good start in his first game after returning from the World Baseball Classic, too. He hit a leadoff single in the first inning, advanced on Andres Torres’ sacrifice, took third on Hunter Pence’s infield single and scored on Posey’s sacrifice fly.
Brandon Crawford made a pair of impressive plays to keep Runzler’s inning from being even worse. Seeing all the other random guys playing shortstop for the Giants this spring, it’s even more obvious just how good Crawford is with the glove.
Cole Gillespie helped his cause with a home run, but he might have done more to damage it when he let a John Jaso drive to left-center get past him and go to the wall. The A’s catcher ended up with a rare triple.
Gillespie and Francisco Peguero absolutely have to play premium defense, or else the Giants might as well not carry a fifth outfielder.
Nick Noonan had a pair of hits, including an RBI single off A’s left-hander Tommy Milone. In fact, both of Noonan’s hits came against left-handed pitching. You can bet the Giants took note of that.