Lincecum calls himself 'weak link,' but Giants won't skip him

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Lincecum calls himself 'weak link,' but Giants won't skip him

PITTSBURGH There was just one question to ask after thePittsburgh Pirates blew the Giants and Tim Lincecum to smithereens in a 13-2loss at PNC Park on Sunday.

And it wasnt to inquire which palm tree theyll wobble underneath for theAll-Star break.

Its this: Will Lincecum really and truly get the baseballon Saturday, with just one extra day of rest? Or will the Giants look at his6.42 ERA the absolute worst among qualified major league starting pitchers and reconsider?

No, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. No chance. Wellthrow him back out there.

So there you go.

The Giants remain near the front of the pack in the NL West.Can they really afford to throw Lincecum to the wolves?

You might ask the question another way: If Lincecum cannotturn it around, will it matter?

He has to regroup and we need him, Bochy said. Hell bedetermined to turn this around.

After another 3 13-inning, six-run meltdown in humid but bearable conditions, Lincecum is 3-10 the Giants first double-digit loser at the break since Barry Zito in 2008.

Lincecums 6.42 ERA is the highest of every blessed one of the 101 major leaguestarters who qualify for the ERA title. Remember the sheer panic that followedZito during his worst times? He never had an ERA as high as Lincecumsheading into the break. (Youll find many more brutal, revealing numbers in the Instant Replayfile.)

Lincecums quiet, almost lip-trembling postmortem containedthe phrases, terrible and rock bottom and weak link.

All accurate descriptions. But what about answers? How does Lincecum begin toprocess this?

I think the only way I can look at is you never want tosay, Hey, Ive hit rock bottom or anything like that, but things are going asbad as they are right now, and youve got to go out there like youve gotnothing left to lose, Lincecum said. Go out and leave it on the field andwhatever happens, happens.

Its happened, all right. It began happening three battersinto his start against the first-place Pirates, when he couldnt throw strikeswith his fastball. He tried to backdoor a curveball to Neil Walker. Double. Hetried to throw a changeup to Andrew McCutchen. Home run.

Fastball location hasnt been there the last couple gamesso Im going to my secondary pitches and guys are sitting on those, Lincecumsaid. They made the adjustment. Ive just got to make the adjustment back.

They adjusted in another sense. They no longer look at histhin frame and long hair and the No.55 and see an ace. They see vulnerability.

The fear has pooled atop the mound, not in the batters box.

Bochy said Lincecum just needed to forget the first half.Lincecum wasnt in complete agreement.

I have to remember it and use it to know what I dont wantto go through again, said the introspective right-hander, who has used hispostgame media sessions more and more as a kind of therapy. Its been terribleand its a terrible feeling youre letting your team down. Thats the hardestthing.

But it seems everybody else is doing their job and wereplaying good ball. To be the weaker link it wears on you.

The Giants maintain faith in Lincecum, mostly because theyfeel they have no choice. Of course, use a day off after the Houston series toskip his turn. They could give him up to 13 days between starts, instead ofjust five.

Does Lincecum see their decision as a show of faith?

Yeah, I mean, obviously they have faith in me and they toldme that from the first meeting I had with them, he said. So thats not thequestion.

Its whether or not I go out there and trust my stuff andexecute it. That other stuff is off the field or before the game or after thegame. When you get out there between those lines you arent thinking about thatbecause one through five, were pretty good as a starting staff goes.

"I dont want to be that weak link, like everyone thinkstheyre going to run into a bump or a stump. Im working my ass off to be whereI need to be and thats really all I can do.

That the Giants are sticking Lincecum right back on themound Saturday indicates something else: that they arent hiding an injury.

It would be convenient, almost, if Lincecum had a sore elbowor a bad back or an aching shoulder or even a hangnail. But he said nothing iswrong. And he said he doesnt needto overhaul his mechanics.

I feel like its more of a fine-tune, he said. I mean,Ive always gone back to if Im hurt or something is wrong or I feel liketheres something painful in my body or theres inflammation there, thats aninclination that Im using bad mechanics.

So I feel its small things here and there that I just needto tinker with or find consistency with to find that fastball location, findthat secondary location. So thats pretty much it.

He isnt feeling any pain or inflammation?

No, thats one of the confusing things, he said. Im notgoing through any injuries or health issues or anything like that.

Its confusing to Lincecum, to his legions of fans, toBochy, to the front office and to all of the baseball establishment. Sometimesthere are no answers. Sometimes there is just fear pooling in the wrong places.

Lincecum will go to Seattle for the All-Star break his firsttime not representing the Giants at the Midsummer Classic since his rookie yearin 2007. He said he sees the second half as a chance for a fresh start.

But in the meantime, he will not take a mental break fromthe craft and the game he once dominated with poetic, balletic grace.

No, Im going to pick up a ball and keep my mind surroundedwith baseball, he said. I have to think about what Ive gone through in orderto remedy this.

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I'm catching a flight home (too bad no All-Star Game in KC for me ... I was looking forward to an in-depth interview with Arthur Bryant), so no time for an Extra Baggs file after the game. Look for my midseason coverage later in the week, and I'll catch up with you again in Atlanta. Please make sure to follow my CSN colleagues during the Houston series. As always, thanks for reading.

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

Giants spring training Day 13: Cain goes two; Melancon has perfect debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy planned to give most of his pitchers one-inning stints during the first weekend of spring ball, but Matt Cain stretched it out to 40 pitches on Saturday. 

“I’ve had enough days off the past couple of years,” Cain said, smiling.

In his first start of a crucial spring, Cain threw two innings. He was charged with three hits and two runs, just one of them earned. 

“He’s in a good place right now with his arm strength,” Bochy said. “His delivery is consistent. I’m glad he got a lot of work today, to be honest. It’s something he needs as much as anybody on this staff, is work. He’s going to get it.”

Ty Blach, Cain’s biggest competition for the fifth starter spot, gave up four hits and one earned in his two innings. Neither pitcher was hit particularly hard, and both suffered a bit from iffy defense in the early innings of an 8-6 win over the Cubs. 

The inning separating Cain and Blach was notable for other reasons. Mark Melancon made his Giants debut, getting two groundouts and a fly to right in a quick inning. Melancon received a nice ovation, and he noted the opponent — a Cubs team that helped guarantee the Giants would spend big on a closer — but he didn’t put any added importance on the outing. 

“It doesn’t matter what I do out there right now,” he said. 

Melancon’s new teammates might disagree. Spring or not, the Giants certainly enjoyed watching a closer breeze through his inning. Especially against the Cubs. 

“He’s a pro,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be out there working on stuff, his command and pitches. It was good for Buster (Posey) to catch him. It was a good day for him.”

NOTABLE: On his first swing of the spring, Posey threw his bat up against the visiting dugout. It can only go uphill from there … Bryan Morris had a scoreless debut, striking out one … Josh Osich ran into some trouble in the eighth and gave up a pair of runs, but Bochy appreciated the way he fought his way out of the frame … Former Giants prospect Chris Dominguez started for the Cubs at first base. He had a couple of hits ... If you're headed to Goodyear for tomorrow's game, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, Conor Gillaspie, Jimmy Rollins, Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Trevor Brown will start behind Matt Moore. Also, if you're headed to Goodyear, I'm sorry. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez is limited to DH duty for now because of a sore throwing shoulder. Nuñez said the tightness popped up after some work in the weight room, but he’s not concerned at all. He said he would have played third base if Saturday’s game was a regular season contest. The Giants expect him in the field sometime next week. 

Nuñez also said it took five weeks after the season ended for his hamstring to get back to 100 percent, so apparently that injury was much worse than it first looked. Nuñez was out on the field before every NLDS game, trying to get clearance to return. He never quite got there. 

Will Smith (elbow) is just a day or two from throwing off flat ground, Bochy said. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants had hoped to have Johnny Cueto in camp this weekend, but he remains in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. Cueto is waiting for a visa for his ill father, Domingo, who will travel to Scottsdale with Johnny. 

LIGHTER SIDE: Brandon Crawford spent a couple of minutes learning some of Jeff Samardzija’s mound moves. The impersonation is pretty solid. 

Giants rookie Hwang goes opposite field for first spring homer

Giants rookie Hwang goes opposite field for first spring homer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-gyun Hwang spent his final season in Korea focusing on not flipping his bat. The excitement of his first home run in a Giants uniform nearly scuttled that plan.

“If I would have known it was going to go over the wall, I maybe would have thought about (flipping the bat),” Hwang joked. 

Hwang instead busted it nearly all the way to third on a ball that cleared the wall a few feet from the right-field poll. He said he was aiming for a triple off the bat, but the ball had enough backspin to hit the berm. The opposite-field homer came on a two-strike count. 

“I’m sure it's a relief for him to get his first hit, and of course, a homer,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The ball carries here and he’s strong. Once it got up in the air there I thought it would go out. He did a good job of going the other way. You get a couple of strikes, you want to think the other way there.”

Bochy has liked what he’s seen from right-handed hitters the first two games, both victories. The Giants are intent on adding some thunder to their bench and on back-to-back days they have gotten late homers from non-roster invitees. A day after Chris Marrero’s three-run walk-off, Hwang hit a three-run shot. Justin Ruggiano, another right-handed bat, scorched a double in Saturday’s 8-6 win over the Cubs.

“We’ve got some good candidates and good players,” Bochy said. “They have pop. We’ll keep throwing them out there. You hope they make it hard on you, and I’m sure they will.”

Hwang had a rough debut, striking out twice in Friday’s Cactus League opener. He said he was over-swinging. 

“Typically I don’t really get nervous before games, but I got a little nervous and jittery yesterday,” he said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I had unnecessary power in my swings.”

Hwang said coaches approached him after Friday’s game and told him to relax. The easy power that so intrigued the Giants showed up on Saturday.