Lincecum chooses a different weapon to defeat Dodgers

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Lincecum chooses a different weapon to defeat Dodgers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES There was a time when Tim Lincecum could mowthrough any lineup using just two blades.

His fastball and his changeup. Both thrown with the sameblurry arm speed.

The changeup was not fair. It faded. It disappeared. It wasperfectly disguised as another roaring, rabbit fastball out of the hand. Thenit would tumble like a puff of dying exhaust underneath so many hopeful bats.

The changeup was the pitch that won Lincecum two Cy Youngs,that helped to deliver the Giants a World Series title, that promised to keep him inthe game many years longer than the projections of all those amateur scouts wholooked at his scrawny body and draped their reports with red flags.

But Lincecum has not been himself this season. He took themound Tuesday night with a 5.45 ERA, and no more room for baby steps or moral victories. First place was at stake. And in manyrespects, this was his most important regular-season start as a Giant. Whilenot yet in the backstretch, this pennant race is about to kick into a swifterpace. Lincecum had to prove to himself, to his coaches and teammates, that hecould keep up as he once did.

When warriors go into battle, they favor their truest blade.For Lincecum, youd pick his changeup, right?

He did not.

He threw three of them, maybe four.

Outs are just outs, said Lincecum, who won enough battlesover 5 23 innings of a heartening 4-1 victory at Dodger Stadium. Itdoesnt matter whether you use your changeup, slider or fastball or whatever.

You talk to your catcher and get feedback. If a certainpitch is working, you dont have to go to the others except maybe to flash it.The fastball was good and the slider was good, so thats what we went with.

The slider did not feel good in the spring, youll recall.Lincecum vowed not to throw it, for a few reasons. The pitch tended toexacerbate a blister issue on the tip of his middle finger. But mostly, he foundthat throwing the slider made it more difficult to find and keep a consistentrelease point with his fastball.

Miidway through his second start of the season, Lincecumrealized he needed his slider. The plan changed.

It continues to evolve.

In front of a hostile, sellout crowd, Lincecum threw 47fastballs, 25 sliders, and although Pitch FX had him at 10 changeups, Lincecumestimated he threw less than half that many.

Essentially, he was a fastball-slider pitcher.

Its a pitch I can throw across the plate that breaks awayfrom right-handers and in on lefties, he said of his slider. Its a pitchIve been looking for, really, to open up the plate to both sides.

Thats what makes this game fun and exciting, he continued.Its a chess game every day. One year, you might go fastball-changeup. Thenext year you might find fastball-slider is what works.

The trouble Ive had is knowing what to improve or what tochange instead of putting emphasis on the right things and relying on what gotme here.

That means relying on what works on a given night, too. On this 75-degree night at Chavez Ravine, during those crisis moments when Lincecum has failed to make a pitch so many times thisseason, he knew he could put stock in the slider. He threw one to Matt Kempwith a 3-1 count in the fourth inning. Swing and a miss. Then Lincecum followedwith another that resulted in a double-play grounder.

When the Dodgers placed hits to load the bases in the sixth,Lincecum faced Kemp again. He threw a fastball for a called strike. And then

I wasnt going to compound the problem, he said. I wasjust trying to get one out. I didnt care if it was a sacrifice fly. I couldtell from the first slider I threw him in the game that if I put it in the rightspot, just off the black, it could just be a pop fly.

Lincecum threw it off the black. Kemp did better than pop itup, but his drive to right field held no danger of reaching the pavilion. HunterPence gloved it for a sacrifice fly. It was the only run Lincecum allowed.

It should be noted that Lincecums fastball had more life,too. He said he didnt change his workout routine between starts or make anymechanical tweaks from the last outing -- a messy, 96-pitch night againstWashington in which he completed just four innings.

Perhaps he was a bit fresher with an extra day, or a littlemore amped because of the opponent. For whatever reason, his average velocitywas 92.4 mph and he topped out at almost 94.

But he didnt try to blow away hitters with gas. He used itto set up the slider. He did exactly what manager Bruce Bochy hoped he would do: Keep making pitches, and never let up.

Thats a good sign for us, for him, Bochy said. I thoughthe did a really good job of pitching. He mixed it up well and used both sides.

Lincecum spoke of trying to erase his first-half failures.In the next breath, he acknowledged he cannot undo the past.

But in a pennantrace, there is no rear view.

Its all about that finishing kick, and no matter what weapon hechooses, the Giants are counting on Lincecum to be sharp.

I cant change what happened, he said. I can only makebetter pitches now.

Dodgers trade top pitching prospect to Rays for 2B Forsythe

Dodgers trade top pitching prospect to Rays for 2B Forsythe

The Dodgers' months-long search for a second baseman is over.

Los Angeles has acquired infielder Logan Forsythe from the Rays, the team announced Monday afternoon.

The Dodgers are sending top pitching prospect Jose De Leon to Tampa Bay.

In 127 games for the Rays in 2016, the 30-year-old Forsythe hit .264/.333/.444 with 24 doubles, 20 home runs and 52 RBI.

Forsythe is set to make $7 million in 2017 and has a team option worth $8.5 million or a $1 million buyout for 2018.

De Leon, 24, made his major league debut for the Dodgers during the 2016 season. In four starts, he posted a 6.35 ERA while striking out 15 batters in 17 innings. In 16 startts for Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2016, De Leon registered a 2.61 ERA and struck out 111 batters in just 86.1 innings.

A native of Puerto Rico, De Leon was recently ranked as the Dodgers' No. 3 prospect Baseball America.

For most of the offseason, the Dodgers had been linked to Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, but the two sides couldn't come together on a deal.

Spring training to be slightly shortened starting in 2018

Spring training to be slightly shortened starting in 2018

NEW YORK -- For everyone who thinks spring training is too long, help is on the way - a little, anyway.

Spring training will be shortened by two days starting in 2018, when new restrictions in Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement take effect on game times for regular-season getaway days.

The voluntary reporting date for pitchers, catchers and injured players will be 43 days before the major league opener instead of 45, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Associated Press. For other players, the date will be 38 days ahead instead of 40.

The change was tied to spreading each team's 162 regular-season games over 187 days, up from 183.

Players' association Assistant General Counsel Matt Nussbaum said the union's goal was to create more days off during the season "in a way that doesn't just chew up offseason days."

"We have heard for years and I'm sure we will continue to hear that spring training is too long, that guys are really ready to go well before opening day, but I think what the commissioner's office would tell you is that there are big challenges for the clubs in substantially shortening spring training because they have various commitments to put on a certain number of games," he said Monday.

Late arrival times ahead of regular-season series openers also were addressed.

Starting in 2018, the latest possible start time on getaway days when either team is traveling to a game in another city the next day or a home off day will be calculated by subtracting the time of the flight over 2½ hours from 7 p.m.

There are cutouts for Sunday night games broadcast by ESPN and games after June 1 at Texas' current home ballpark - where the Rangers avoid afternoons for much of the season because of the heat.

Another new rule for 2018 says no game in the original schedule may be set for before 5 p.m. when a team played the previous night in another city starting 7 p.m. or later. There are exceptions involving flights of 90 minutes or less for home openers and holiday weekends. Current cutouts are carried over for up to six exceptions each season at Chicago's Wrigley Field and rescheduled games involving flights of 90 minutes or less.

"We fully recognize that our players play a very demanding schedule, and we're always looking for ways to ease the burden on players while at the same time scheduling games at a convenient time for our fans to watch them," MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said.

Sunday night games on holiday weekends followed by afternoon games still seem likely to occur.

"We have contracts with various national broadcast partners that limit our ability to schedule day games in certain instances," Halem said.

Nussbaum said if the players had their way, there would be "a flat rule that says all getaway games are day games" but understand why that would cause difficulty for teams.

"There's still going to be some challenges in the schedule," he said, "but we think what we've done with these two prongs is pare back the most egregious of the travel."

As part of the agreement, one game in the major leagues may be scheduled each year on the Thursday after the All-Star Game starting in 2018.