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GLENDALE, Ariz. – Tim Lincecum might have short hair, but he encountered his share of tangles in his first exhibition start of the spring Tuesday.
Lincecum worked deep counts and reached his pitch limit before making it out of the second inning at Camelback Ranch. Dodgers minor leaguer Jeremy Moore hit a two-run double that drove Lincecum from the game.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner allowed three runs on four hits in 1 1/3 innings. He struck out one and didn’t walk a batter, although he went to 3-2 counts on four hitters.
Discouraging? Not in the least.
“It’s a good sign,” said Lincecum, “when you feel the ball’s coming out of your hand better than the year before.”
It wasn’t a clean outing, but for a spring debut, it was far from a disaster – especially when you consider that Lincecum hadn’t faced a live batter since Game 3 of the World Series. (His live BP session was washed out because of rain last week, so he threw in an indoor cage with someone standing in the box.)
He threw 22 of his 38 pitches for strikes, and while his offspeed stuff had plenty of moment, most of them were taken out of the strike zone. He said he’d work on making better put-away pitches the next time out.
Mostly, he felt stronger and more in sync, able to push down the mound on his plant leg without cutting off his delivery or falling off to the side.
“There wasn’t that question if my body would be ready or if my mechanics would be working,” Lincecum said. “All that other stuff was a non-issue. The timing of my arm felt really good. I missed a few pitches high, but I meant to.
“I didn’t feel I was getting out of whack.”
I sat in the scouts section and observed Lincecum’s fastball gunned at 92-93 mph in the first inning. He was anywhere from 89-92 mph in the second inning, but he might have been taking something off on two-seamers.
Stamina was an issue for Lincecum last season, along with a delivery that he never was able to find and keep. He focused on core and leg strength over the winter and didn’t throw off a mound once from Game 3 of the World Series till his first bullpen session after arriving in Scottsdale two weeks ago. (He threw off flat ground instead.) So it’s tough to expect him to have pinpoint control so quickly.
He said he threw all his pitches and only missed down the middle once, on that slider that Moore lashed to the left-center gap.
Lincecum’s first inning began when second baseman Kensuke Tanaka picked up a routine grounder and somehow made a wild, 40-foot throw to first base that allowed Skip Schumaker to reach. Lincecum gave up a hit to Adrian Gonzalez but got out of the jam when he struck out Andre Ethier with runners moving. Shortstop Brandon Crawford started the rundown, which included a throw to third base and then a throw back to second to tag out the trail runner.
Lincecum said he didn’t get worked up over facing the Dodgers, either. That wasn’t the case last season, when he found himself getting psyched up to face the Arizona Diamondbacks, who cuffed him around the previous season.
Instead, Lincecum took his start Tuesday for what it was: The chance to face live batters, and get some feedback from them.
“Last spring it was trying to make something out of nothing,” Lincecum said. “I didn’t have the strength or the mechanics to sustain anything. Now the question isn’t whether I’m going to throw strikes. It’s where I’m going to throw strikes.”