SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – A jar of pickles, a squirt of lime juice and a healthy glop of mystery mud.
That’s the concoction that Tim Lincecum is using to toughen up a blistered middle finger on his pitching hand, which continues to set him back this spring. The two-time Cy Young Award winner was scratched for the second consecutive start; right-hander Chad Gaudin will start in his place Thursday against the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear.
The good news: The mystery mud is working. Lincecum threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Thursday, including some problematic sliders, and said he expected to start Saturday afternoon against the Royals at Scottsdale Stadium.
“Whatever it is, it doesn’t smell good,” Lincecum told me, after spending an hour soaking his finger in the trainer’s room.
Lincecum has dealt with blister issues in the past, most notably in the 2010 postseason. It’s one of the reasons he tried to get away from throwing sliders at times, since the pitch can rub him the wrong way.
But those blisters usually involved a cracked nail and irritation on the fingertip.
“This one is trickier than in the past because it’s just so deep,” he said, holding up his hand. “It’s right on the pad of the finger.”
This is the most important spring of Lincecum’s career, as he readies himself for the final season before hitting free agency. But he has faced hitters just once since Game 3 of the World Series, lasting 1 1/3 innings against the Dodgers in a start on Feb. 26. Even his live batting practice session prior to games was washed out by rain.
“It’s been a little set back,” he told me. “But it eases any doubts because what I’m doing off the field workout-wise. Everything felt good today and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.”