SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Tim Lincecum has never had an ERA under4.00 in spring training, and after two starts in 2012, it looked like he was onhis way to another rough Cactus League.While his spring stats seem to have no correlation to his regular-seasonperformance, Lincecum entered Mondays start in Surprise against the KansasCity Royals with a 13.50 ERA in four innings.But after four sharp innings, in which his fastballroutinely hit 92 and his changeup led to many ugly Royal swings, the Giantsace looks like a regular-season Lincecum.
In the first inning, Lincecum left an 0-2 changeup high in the zone to EricHosmer, who drove it the other way for a loud foul ball. But he came back tostrike out the Royals young first baseman and complete a 1-2-3 opening frame.Lincecum sandwiched a strikeout around two groundouts for another 1-2-3inning in the second, then erased a one-out walk in the third with aninning-ending tailor made double play.The fourth inning tested the diminutive right-hander, as Jarrod Dyson led offby grounding a ball off Lincecums foot for an infield hit.Lincecum wasnt worried about the deflection, though.It wasnt hit hard enough, he said. Just caught the bottom of my cleat, thatwas it.Dyson kept the pressure on Lincecum, though, by stealing second base andadvancing to third on catcher Eli Whitesides throwing error. Dyson then scoredon Alcides Escobars groundout to shortstop. Lincecum looked like he might not make it through the fourth inning, as noGiants starter has done this spring, when he walked Hosmer, but he bounced backby picking off Hosmer and striking out Alex Gordon on a curveball.With a reputation for not being able to hold runners on,Lincecum said he has worked on being better in that aspect of the game.I just made myself more aware of it, he said. Its one thing to just givethe guy a little head nod over there. Sometimes you get in a rhythm and youkind of forget about him. But Im making more of a conscious effort to keeptrack of those guys and keep them out of scoring position.Lincecum ended up with just the unearned run in his four innings of work, whichincluded the lone infield hit, two walks and four strikeouts, one in eachframe. He wouldnt give himself a grade like he did in previous starts, but washappy with the results.A lot better than last outing, Lincecum said. The fact that I doubled myinnings helps and my arm still feels good, my body still feels good, and I stillkept my mechanics so Im just trying to take that as a positive and run withit.