SAN FRANCISCO — When the World Series last kicked off at AT&T Park, Tim Lincecum was the starter for the San Francisco Giants and Barry Zito wasn't even on the roster.
Two years later, Lincecum is not slated to start a single game in the Fall Classic while Zito will be on the hill when Wednesday's Game 1 against the Detroit Tigers begins.
Yeah, it's a cliche, but I think we can get away with using the term "what a difference two years makes" when mentioning one of the biggest reversal of fortune in recent baseball memory. The switcheroo became official during Tuesday's media day sessions when Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced his rotation as Zito for Game 1 and Madison Bumgarner for Game 2 in San Francisco while Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain will start Games 3 and 4 in Detroit this weekend. Those four will face off against the already-announced Tigers rotation of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.
Though Lincecum or Bumgarner in Game 2 was a debate many people were having, it's not exactly a surprise to see Tiny Tim sent back to the bullpen. He didn't start in the five-game NLDS and made one shaky start against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLCS.
Lincecum has, however, pitched well out of the bullpen, giving up only one run in 8 1/3 innings of work this postseason. He probably would've figured into the decisive Game 7, too, were it not for the Giants taking such a big and early lead against St. Louis.
"We just think [Lincecum] is better served for this club at this point helping us out of the bullpen," Bochy said. "He gives us another weapon there. He's resilient. I can use him back‑to‑back days; I can use him three or four innings if necessary. If something happens, I can start him. So we think that's the best way to go right now."
Bochy only confirmed the rotation news after the media had met with Giants players so Lincecum talked only generally about his newfound role this month and not getting one of the first four starts. But he maintained his good attitude and restated his willingness to help the team in any way possible.
"This isn't about me," Lincecum said. "This is about the Giants jersey."
If he's not just putting on a smile for the press, Bochy has to feel like one lucky guy. How many other two-time Cy Young winners would take the news the same way? Not that delivering the news to Lincecum in 2012 or Zito in 2010 was ever easy.
"It's one of your most difficult things you have to do as a manager," Bochy said. "Particularly when you're talking to a star player, a guy that's won a Cy Young and wants to be out there and that's been out there really all year for you, and you have to tell him that you're going to go another way as far as the postseason ... it's never easy."
Bochy said the team got Bumgarner the rest he needed after the 23-year-old gave up a total of 10 runs over eight innings in his first two starts. He last pitched on Oct. 14 in Game 1 of the NLCS and will have had 10 days of rest by the time he starts Game 2 on Thursday.
Vogelsong and Cain will also be fully rested — though not as much as Bumgarner — by the time they make their starts in Comerica Park.
Lincecum will obviously be on hand to contribute should any starter need an early hook and you have to think he'd be considered for Game 5 or 6 should Zito or Bumgarner falter in Game 1 or 2. Still, Lincecum entering a postseason game from the bullpen remains a strange sight, no matter how much sense it might make or how long we saw it coming.