Urban: Lincecum back to meeting Giant expectations


Urban: Lincecum back to meeting Giant expectations

June 23, 2011


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Mychael Urban

Long after he'd satisfied the swarm of reporters requesting his postgame thoughts on Thursday, after the home clubhouse at AT&T Park was all but empty save a few stragglers, Giants ace Tim Lincecum pulled an all-black, short-sleeved, micro-fiber workout shirt over his head.

Wearing an expression that conveyed equal parts relief and satisfaction, he turned away from his double-wide locker and graciously acknowledged an unexpected visitor.
"It's about time, right?" he said with a wry smile.Unclear was whether he was mimicking the likely reaction of many Giants fans to his merciless mugging of Minnesota, or whether he was simply providing his own reaction.RECAP: Lincecum strikes out 12, Giants take series, 2-1
More than likely, it was both.This is not the first trip down the waterside for Lincecum, whose ugly first three starts of June sounded alarms that echoed those heard last August.It's not his first sprint up the slippery slope aside the slide, either. He got back to the top, to the head of the line, last September -- and with Thursday's seven stifling innings in which the Twins had trouble touching him, he appeared to have again found his way."I didn't really catch him in spring training, so I knew what he threw but didn't really know what it looks like and when he likes to throw it," said Chris Stewart, who gained such knowledge while handling Lincecum's Saturday start in Oakland and appeared to expertly apply it five days later. "Today we were on the same page pretty much all day, but the main thing is Timmy was just really, really good."That might be underselling it. Lincecum was great, as evidenced by the 12 K's hanging on the brick wall down the right-field line after the Freak finished with a flourish, striking out the side in the seventh before handing a 1-0 lead to the bullpen. The Twins surely felt like they'd been plastered to a brick wall themselves.
The problem for Lincecum, though, is that greatness is expected. For him, greatness is par for his career course. Birdies and eagles? It'll take no-hitters, 20-punchout performances, truly transcendent triumphs for him to get credit for those.Maybe "problem" isn't the right word here, come to think of it. If outside expectations are that high, no matter how unrealistic they might be, something has gone so spectacularly well that it's hard to paint it as problematic."Unfair?" Again, hard to slap some spit on that label. Greatness brings great "glue" -- MLBese for big money -- and commensurate fame, and there's nothing unfair about that.Besides, you easily could flip that script and say it's not fair for the Twins when Lincecum, as he so often does, delivers the expected greatness.He delivered against Minnesota by featuring his curveball quite a bit more than usual -- a tweak to his game plan that doubled as a means to the end of correcting a slight mechanical flaw that contributed to the mini-June swoon.While in the midst of his funk, Lincecum has insisted that his issues were all in his head. Yet as he explained in the near-empty clubhouse late Thursday afternoon, recent conversations with his dad, Chris, convinced him that it was as mechanic as it was mental.VIDEO: Tim Lincecum on his father
In layman's terms, the result of those conversations -- as well as the feedback of pitching coach Dave Righetti -- has Lincecum no longer "flying out" with his left shoulder so early that it forces a premature tilt toward first base, giving him better balance (read: command) and leg drive (read: sustainable velocity and stamina).What makes an elite athlete get away from what so clearly works for him in the first place? If anyone had the answer to that, a lot of coaches and trainers would be out of jobs.Exhaustion might be a possible cause, though.Up and down the slide they go, trying to live up to ridiculously lofty standards; merely good performances seen as less than that, great ones seen as merely good.That's got to be taxing at some point, no? Yes.So maybe we've got it all wrong. Maybe Lincecum's refreshingly unguarded comment in the quiet of the clubhouse had nothing to do with his return to Freakiness."It's about time, right?"Could you blame him if he was just talking about a nap?

Reigning AL MVP Trout to undergo thumb surgery, out 6-8 weeks

Reigning AL MVP Trout to undergo thumb surgery, out 6-8 weeks

ANAHEIM -- Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout has a torn ligament in his left thumb and will have surgery Wednesday that is expected to sideline him between six to eight weeks.

The Angels put the reigning AL MVP on the disabled list Monday for the first time in his career. The outfielder hurt himself a day earlier making a headfirst slide to steal second base in Miami.

At 25, Trout already is a two-time AL MVP. He is hitting .337 and has 16 home runs, second most in the majors.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said an MRI revealed the tear. Team doctor Steve Shin arrived in Anaheim later Monday night, met with Trout and it was determined surgery was his best option.

"It was news no player wants to hear," Eppler said. "He's been put in a tough spot and it's something he's still digesting."

The Angels lost shortstop Andrelton Simmons to a similar thumb injury last season. He had surgery and was out slightly over five weeks.

Los Angeles was 26-28 going Monday night's game at home against Atlanta, and the lineup recently missed ailing slugger Albert Pujols.

Trout made his major league debut by playing 40 games for the Angels in 2011. Since then, he's been a five-time All-Star and has finished in the top two in the AL MVP all five seasons.

A year after hitting .315 with a .441 on-base percentage, 29 home runs, 100 RBIs and 30 steals, Trout was off to a dynamic start. He was leading the league in on-base percentage (.461) and slugging percentage (.742) when he was hurt.

"It's really hard to quantify (his loss)," Eppler said. "We're going to feel that impact and it's going to require multiple people stepping up in his absence. The team will fight as it always does. But he's in the heart of the order and a leader in the dugout. Those are tough to absorb."

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Dodgers infielder weighs in on Harper's errant helmet throw

Before the right hooks and haymakers, there was the helmet toss.

A very bad helmet toss.

As he made his way to the mound after getting hit by a pitch on Monday afternoon, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper attempted to throw his helmet at Giants reliever Hunter Strickland. He missed by a wide margin.

Observers took notice, including Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner.

"What was worse, Harper's helmet throw or 50 Cents first pitch? Heads up in the #McCoveyCove," Turner tweeted shortly after the brawl between the Giants and Nationals.

Turner is referring to a ceremonial first pitch thrown by rapper 50 Cent prior to a Mets game in 2014.

Harper mentioned the helmet when addressing the situation after the game.

"I was trying to go after him, with the helmet or with myself, just doing what I needed to do keep it going, I guess," Harper told reporters.