CINCINNATI The baseball world understood the impact Tim Lincecumcould make out of the bullpen in the Giants Game 4 victory Wednesday night.
But for one of his teammates, it was nothing he hadnt seenbefore.
This isnt the first time Ive played with Timmy as areliever, said right-hander George Kontos, who left two baserunners in thefourth inning that Lincecum cleaned up on the way to 4 13 brilliant innings inthe Giants 8-3 victory.
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Kontos and Lincecum were teammates with Harwich in the CapeCod League. Lincecum was a junior at the University of Washington trying hishand as a closer, mostly for the benefit of scouts. Kontos was at Northwestern,building up innings as a starter.
Ive seen how dominant he was, Kontos said. He was nasty.Throwing triple digits, punching people out.
I was a starter and I was third in the league instrikeouts. And he finished fourth, one behind me, as a reliever. It tells youwhat kind of stuff he had.
Lincecum went back to starting at Washington on his way to aGolden Spikes Award and the 10th overall pick in the draft. TheGiants had an eye toward making Lincecum a potentially dominant short relieverif he didnt prove durable enough as a starting pitcher.
Its still an option that could be entertained down the line.More than one scout has mused of a day when Lincecum takes the career path of aDennis Eckersley or John Smoltz.
Thats not likely to happen next season; Lincecum has onemore year left on his contract before hed be eligible for free agency, and startingpitchers command far more money on the open market.
But his ability to get loose in a hurry and rebound from oneday to the next is legendary. Even Kontos had to marvel when Lincecum threwjust two warmup pitches in front of the rubber, no less before enteringSundays game.
I think I get loose pretty quickly, Kontos said. I hadfour pitches in Houston, but I think he beat me the other day at home.
If the Giants advance to the NLCS, Lincecum is likely headedback to a starting role. Giants manager Bruce Bochy emphatically agreed thatthought will be entertained, if the club finds itself moving on to face the St.Louis Cardinals or Washington Nationals.
But for now, Kontos has enjoyed sitting in the bullpen andreconnecting with his old teammate from the Cape.
Hes the same guy. Hes Timmy, Kontos said. Whether itssomething in the stands were talking about or a song over the loudspeakers andhes singing the lyrics, hes the same fun loving guy.