Lincecum: 'It makes it that much further of a fall'

918673.jpg

Lincecum: 'It makes it that much further of a fall'

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS All the usual assurances and bits of sage advicedid not apply to Tim Lincecum.

Be yourself. Stay within yourself. Just do what yourecapable of doing.

But what happens when your best effort no longer fills thecoal car? What happens when you must pitch to a standard you can no longerbear? What happens when Tim Lincecum can no longer be Tim Lincecum?

Well, maybe what happens is a silent clubhouse, a hollowstomach and a stare straight off into the distance after the Giants lost 8-3 tothe St. Louis Cardinals Thursday night to fall behind three games to one in theNLCS.

Standards and pennants. The Giants must reach ever higher tograsp them now.

RATTO: Giants a little bit short of everything

Its extremely disappointing, said Lincecum, after pullinga knit cap down to his eyes. Because you feel within yourself that you canpick the team up in a situation like this. But when you dont go and do it, itmakes it that much further of a fall, I guess.

A terrible, terrifying fall.

The last time Lincecum started a postseasongame before Thursday, his teammates literally lifted him on their shoulders as they smudged agleaming World Series trophy with their fingers. He was and remains the only San Francisco Giants pitcher in the franchise's five-plus decades to own a victory in a World Series clincher.

Those Giants pitched their way through three postseason series,scoring just enough and using pluck and rowdy luck (and beards and thongs andeven a masked mystery man known as The Machine) to stand alone at the end.

They do not hold title to that kind of pitching now. MadisonBumgarner began running low on diesel a month ago, and the Lincecum thatdiscovered himself in September, 2010, never did resurface this season.

His miserable August that year was contained to one month.This year, it spread like a rash, and it never really went away.

Even the good starts in the second half only led toheightened expectations that, for reasons that he will dissect in the weeks andmonths to come, could not be met.

Thats obviously been the hardest part because Ive shownflashes of what I can do or what I think I should be doing, he said. Sothats the frustrating part.

When you come down to it, its not about what Ive done. Youknow, Ive got to figure out a way to do it differently now and get my outs. SoI think thats the frustrating part because Ive always been able to transitionon the run and not necessarily worry about that. So for me not to make thatadjustment, I guess, on the run its hard.

Lincecum will have to find a new identity as the raindropstrack down the windows of his Seattle condo. He might try a new grip on hischangeup, which was once the most lethal pitch in baseball. Maybe a differentworkout regimen can help him gain some of his lost velocity.

Maybe hell return to those three double-cheeseburgerlunches, followed by an afternoon nap, and pitch a little closer to his weightin 2011.

You might call it soul searching. But Lincecum has to findsomething much more practical than that. Hes under contract next season for22 million. Then comes free agency, and uncertainty.

I think that will be something Ill do in the offseason onmy own, he said. I cant really say right now what Ill do differently. Rightnow Im obviously upset at myself for the game today. But tomorrows a newday.

As for his day at Busch Stadium, it was more of what theGiants have seen from Lincecum all season. He struggled to put the ball wherehe wanted, he struggled to repeat his delivery and he struggled to put awayhitters in key spots.

In the first inning, his direction to the mound was allwrong as the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead within the first four batters. Pitchingcoach Dave Righetti made the first of his three mound visits.

He was cutting himself off there a little bit, Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy said. Hes done a great job for us. He gave us all he hadout there.

The Giants had to turn to Lincecum in this game. They had to go with hope. They couldn't feed Bumgarner and Zito to the Cardinals, who chew up left-handed pitchers.

And Lincecum, for all his laboring, almost gave them enough to exit a one-run game. Bochy saidhe wouldnt have asked Lincecum, who was pitching on three days of restfollowing his two-inning relief appearance in Game 1, to go further than thefifth.

But Matt Carpenter doubled off the center field wall and the Giants couldnt takeadvantage of center fielder Angel Pagans tremendous cutoff of Matt Hollidayssingle in right-center. Shortstop Brandon Crawford skipped his throw to theplate, and although Carpenter wasnt yet bearing down, catcher Hector Sanchezcouldnt handle the hop.

Carpenter scored to make it 3-1, and then Lincecum couldnt putaway Yadier Molina with two outs. A couple of two-strike fouls preceded asingle up the middle that scored another run, and ended the right-handersnight.

And, maybe, the most challenging season of his life.

You know, I think it just shows hes human, left-handerJeremy Affeldt said. For several years there, the kid I mean, Ive neverseen anything like it. He still has the stuff. Its just tonight, it wasnt hisnight.

Everybody needs to remember hes a human being. What Istill see is a talented pitcher whos done a lot of great things in his career,and he shouldnt be ashamed of what hes done at all. We all felt we had asmuch of a chance with him today as any.

Theres no regrets. He went out and gave it his all, and wesee that.

He gave what he could, and what he had.

Im always excited to go out there every chance I get,Lincecum said. Thats what were here for. We want to pitch and compete andthats great.

But I didnt do my job.

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."