SAN FRANCISCO – Bruce Bochy has spent a lot of time discussing what’s wrong with Tim Lincecum.
The Giants’ manager often paints a prettier picture of Lincecum’s outing than the stats would suggest, but that’s part of the job description.
He was more candid Thursday, a day after Lincecum allowed six runs, five earned, in 4.1 innings to absorb his fifth loss of the season.
A’s slugger Yoenis Cespedes got two consecutive very straight and very hittable fastballs from Lincecum in his first at-bat. The first one he just missed, sending it back to the screen, and the second one went over centerfielder Gregor Blanco’s head for a triple.
Bochy said that Lincecum’s fastball command remains his biggest issue.
“It seems like it’s the [fastball] that gets away from him sometimes. It’s probably the most important pitch to command. At times he’s right on and other times he just makes a mistake with it.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s a little bit of an enigma. His stuff is there. He has really good innings and he’s just in a rut where at a critical part of the game he may make a mistake.”
The mistakes have come early and often for Lincecum, dating back to last season. A brilliant stretch as a reliever during the 2012 postseason run gave Giants fans a glimmer of hope that the two-time Cy Young Award winner had rediscovered his old form, but with a 5.12 ERA so far that appears to be unlikely.
“These things are hard to explain,” Bochy said. “I think he’s stronger than he’s ever been, his stuff is really good, he just makes some mistakes at the wrong time.”
Bochy said that his job is to make sure all of the members of his starting rotation are confident in their abilities and that Lincecum is not the only one in need of an occasional pep talk.
“That’s a tough one sometimes when these guys go through these streaks,” Bochy said. “It’s not just Timmy. You’ve seen the other starters go through it too and they’re good. That’s why we’ve had the success that we’ve had. These are our guys and you stay behind them.”
Bochy believes that a bounce-back outing can drastically change a starter’s demeanor going into the next turn in the rotation.
“Sometimes it takes a start or two, a good quality start, and then they get rolling,” Bochy said. “When you have had your struggles it mounts I think with everybody and they start pressing a little bit. I think the starting rotation is pressing a little bit because of all the talk about what’s going on with our rotation. Because they are such an elite group, they get a lot of attention because of the struggles.”
Ryan Vogelsong had the large cast removed from his right arm and is now wearing a more lightweight cast for his right pinkie, which required surgery after two fractures and a dislocated joint.
“When they looked at him yesterday everything looked good and clean,” Bochy said. “That’s good news. I know he’s glad to get this portable cast on. He’s in a little better frame of mind now. Since he’s gotten this, we’ve finally seen his teeth. I didn’t know he had teeth for a couple days.”
I asked Bochy if he thought something should be done about fan interference after Wednesday’s controversial call.
“The umpires did a great job on that, so we came out fine,” Bochy said. “It looked like it could’ve cost us, though.”
Bochy was in the dugout far away from the fan who interfered, but bullpen coach Mark Gardner was in the vicinity and immediately started yelling at the man who reached over the low padded wall down the left-field line by the Giants’ bullpen.
“We were going through some tough times, so when things don’t go our way like that, guys are going to snap and Gardy, he was upset,” Bochy said.
While Bochy backed his coach, he also defended the fan who was escorted out of the stadium.
“You understand. Go back to that [Bartman] incident in Chicago. As a fan, my natural reaction would be ‘there’s a baseball, I want it.’ You see that baseball and everybody wants a baseball. You don’t just see fans do that. I’ve seen the ball guys or girls down there do it. They don’t realize it’s been called a fair ball and they grab it.”