Erratic Lincecum 'bittersweet' after missing clinch party

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Erratic Lincecum 'bittersweet' after missing clinch party

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SAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum has one start remaining in theregular season one more chance to assemble his rhythm and his confidence likea tax return, with all documents in the proper order.

He has received so many supporting statements from BruceBochy over this checkered season. But the Giants manager could not play off thewreck of a start he observed in a 7-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesdaynight.

It was obvious from the beginning, from the first hitter,that he was out of sorts, said Bochy, who pulled Lincecum two batters into the fifth inning with the Giants trailing 5-1. Hes been throwing well. This isone hes got to put behind him. He just couldnt find his rhythm out there tonight.

Until this year, Lincecum always found it precisely when heneeded it. Thats why there wasnt a great panic in the spring when hestruggled to locate his fastball or put away hitters. He would put that aside,hit the mound on opening day and pitch another gem, just as he always had.

Except this year, he didnt. Five batters into his season,he trailed 3-0 at Chase Field after home runs by Chris Young and personalnemesis Paul Goldschmidt.

Lincecum didnt find it until he began to put together arespectable run in the second half. Even with that nice streak, which includedfive consecutive road victories for the first time in his career, his seasonERA still stood at 5.15 at the close of business Tuesday ranking him 47thout of 47 NL pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

Now he has one more start next week to figure it out beforethe Giants would hand the ball to him in the postseason. At this stage, a start cannot be considered guaranteed. But if he gets one, it would be hisfirst since Game 5 of the 2010 World Series -- when he became the first pitcherin franchise history to win a championship clincher.

Can he hope to find it again? What will he hope to achievein his final chance to fine-tune?

I just want to attack hitters a lot better, said Lincecum,who wasnt injured or affected by a come-backer that glanced off his glove. Itsbeen a lot of favorable counts for the batters and Ive been walking a lot ofguys lately. So its trying to alleviate that, try to make it easier on myselfby just throwing better strikes. That kind of goes back to believing in whatthe catchers putting down and trusting it and not worrying about what happensother than that one pitch.

Lincecum wasnt the only one out of sync against theDiamondbacks. Catcher Hector Sanchez let one wild pitch go between his legs,allowing a run to score. Sanchez had a passed ball, too.

It seemed both of them were off tonight, Bochy said. Ithappens. Youd like to see these guys get locked in this time of year. Theyllhave to put it behind them.

Said Lincecum: It wasnt always about Hector or the pitcheshe was calling. It was a matter of me not hitting my spots and making it toughon him back there with throwing in the dirt, pitches at the head. It was apretty erratic day. He had to make an adjustment to what I was doing instead ofthe other way around.

Prior to the game, Bochy said whoever catches Lincecum inhis regular-season finale is likely to be his battery mate in the postseason.The smart money is on Sanchez again. Lincecum has hardly thrown to Buster Poseyat all in the second half.

Thats one of many things about Lincecum that fans arefinding curious these days. Another was his conspicuous absence from the teamsNL West clinching celebration Saturday night; Lincecum left the game in theseventh inning, even though the Giants were just a handful of outs away from winning.Bochy said its customary for the next days starting pitcher to leave earlywhen a day game follows a night game; the manager expressed regret that hedidnt tell Lincecum he planned to scratch him and start Yusmeiro Petit if theGiants clinched.

It was kind of bittersweet, Lincecum said. Obviously wewon and all. But uh, obviously not being here to share with the team, that waskind of tough. But hopefully things go right and we can celebrate another wayand thatll be a better celebration.

It will be hard to imagine the Giants staging anothercelebration or three unless Lincecum is on his game.

At least he wont have to pitch to the Diamondbacks again.He was 0-3 with a 7.16 ERA in three starts against them, and Goldschmidt hasrocked him for five home runs in just 14 career at-bats.

Right now Ive got something to strive for, getting to thepostseason, but its definitely going to be in the back of my mind, this team,and what theyve done to me, he said.

I think it just comes back to throwing strikes. I feel thegames Ive had that went bad against these guys its been leaving pitches up,which you cant do at their field. And I just havent gotten out of the jamsIve needed to make the outings against the Diamondbacks look better.

Lincecum said he plans to throw an extra time off a bullpenmound, suggesting hell get more time between now and his next start as theGiants rearrange their rotation for the postseason. Then itll be deadline day.

Death and taxes are certain. This season, Lincecum has been anything but.

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

Puerto Rico in scarce supply of hair dye amid World Baseball Classic fever

AN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Pharmacies and beauty stores across Puerto Rico are running out of hair dye with even a top economist joining men going blond in support of the island's baseball players who bleached their hair ahead of the World Baseball Classic.

What began as a joke among team members playing in California has spread across the island in a trend that spiked Tuesday just hours after Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands in 11 innings to reach the championship game undefeated in the tournament, which is held every four years. Puerto Rico will play Wednesday night in the final against the United States, which defeated Japan.

"Ever since they began winning, this has not stopped," said Myrna Rios, a manager at a Sally Beauty Supply store in the capital of San Juan. "We have run out of the product in most of our stores."

Copper blond, platinum blond, golden blond - all shades of blond (even burnt orange) are turning heads in a U.S. territory where the majority of men have thick, dark hair. Bald men dyed their beards or goatees in a nod to Puerto Rico coach Carlos Delgado.

"We have been able to unite our country with our blond hair," said star Carlos Correa, who hit a two-run homer and scored the winning run against the Netherlands. "That's what we want as players to unite our country, our people, and give them the best."

Men ranging from news anchors to university students to professionals have embraced a trend that has sparked the rallying cry of "Team Rubio!" or "Team Blond" in Spanish.

Among them is civil engineer Christian Rodriguez, who dyed his beard Saturday after visiting four different pharmacies to find the product he needed. At first, he didn't dye his hair as well because he thought it would be too much at church on Sunday. But he noticed six male churchgoers had dyed their hair blond and decided to take the plunge, calling a hair stylist friend to help him go platinum.

Rodriguez complained of an intense burning sensation during the two-hour process and sent pictures to his wife, who responded with the emoticon of a monkey with its eyes covered.

"Anything for my island!" he said as he lifted his arm to cheer the team.

Rodriguez then sent a picture of his dyed hair to his mechanic, who responded with a selfie taken underneath a car of him smiling with a bleached beard.

Puerto Rico's undefeated run to the championship has boosted the spirit of an island mired in a decade-long recession that faces a rocky recovery amid looming austerity measures for its government. Even young students have been sporting blond do's, prompting public schools to suspend them until the island's education secretary stepped in and said in a letter made public Tuesday that they should be allowed to dye their hair during the tournament.

"We wanted to do this to unite the team, and then the people of Puerto Rico, they started dying their hair, too," pitcher Edwin Diaz said. "I saw that there were some students that were suspended from school. I think they shouldn't be doing that because it just means that we have united our nation."

Even the prominent Puerto Rico-based economist Sergio Marxuach joined the trend, sporting yellow hair as he walked into a seminar in Puerto Rico on Wednesday, drawing laughs.

"My youngest son asked me, 'Why did you paint your hair like Donald Trump?'" he recalled with a laugh. "If this team can give us hope, we're going to need it given what's coming down the pipe."

Giants spring training Day 38: Cain still on track for fifth starter job

Giants spring training Day 38: Cain still on track for fifth starter job

MARYVALE, Ariz. — After a series of questions the other day about getting extra rest between starts, Madison Bumgarner smiled and pointed at the personalized calendar taped to his locker. He said he simply operates by the schedule set out by pitching coach Dave Righetti.

A glance at the calendar in Matt Cain’s locker might show a reason why the longest-tenured Giant is still in a good position to win the No. 5 starter spot despite continued spring struggles. Because they have two off days sandwiching a two-game series in Kansas City in the middle of April, the Giants can potentially use their No. 5 starter just twice until April 25, a span of 20 games.

If there’s any concern about Cain’s ability to hold up during the regular season, the early slate could help. The Giants can throw Cain against the Padres and Diamondbacks to start the season, and if it's not working out, they can go a stretch with just their top four as they reevaluate. 

"We'll see once we get a little closer how guys are doing, but it certainly gives you some options," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Cain has been preparing all along to start April 7 at Petco Park. That hasn’t changed.

“That’s what I’m looking at,” he said. “That’s the only thing I’m preparing for, to make sure I’m ready to go 100 pitches.”

Cain had another mixed-bag day against the Brewers. The first inning was full of loud contact and Cain was charged with three runs on four hits. But he settled down from there, allowing just one run over the next four innings. In all, Cain allowed four runs on seven hits and struck out four. He said he tried to change speeds more often after the early ambush. 

“I was maybe getting the timing different for them,” he said. “Those guys were getting balls where they could hit them. You’ve got to make a quick adjustment to that, and I had to do that.”

Cain threw 70 pitches, another sign that he’s locked in for April 7. His competition, Ty Blach, has not been fully stretched out this spring. 

TRAINER'S ROOM: Will Smith will head to Los Angeles on Thursday to get a second opinion on his left elbow strain. The Giants will then know if Smith needs Tommy John surgery, which would end his season. Eduardo Nuñez flew back to San Francisco with Smith earlier in the week to get a corisone shot in his sore right shoulder. He's back, but he'll be down a few days. 

GAME RECAP: Hunter Pence has been slumping for several weeks, but he got on the board in the sixth with a double that spun off the end of his bat and down the first base line. A classic Pence hit ... Jae-gyun Hwang hit a two-run shot to right-center ... Steven Okert did some nifty work to keep his spring ERA at 0.00. With runners on first and third and no outs, he got a double play and a fly ball to left.

ICYMI: Barry Bonds has arrived. Here is a story about his return to the Giants, and here’s video from his media session this morning. 

GOOD NEWS: First base coach Jose Alguacil returned to camp Wednesday morning, and he said he’s only a few days from returning to game action. Alguacil, who had surgery earlier in March after taking a line drive off the face, was cleared for full activity. Hensley Meulens, Dave Groeschner and Taira Uematsu also returned from a stint in the WBC. 

FLASHING THE LEATHER: Aaron Hill started the prettiest double play of the spring by snagging a Hernan Perez liner with a dive and making a perfect throw to second baseman Gordon Beckham. Hill later smashed a double into the left field corner. That dude is making the team. 

QUOTABLE: "I figured Barry is in town, so I'd show him how it's done." -- Denard Span on a very long two-run homer he hit to right.